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What I’ve Learnt: Michael Holt, Director of Commercial Partnerships, Voiceworks Sport

Michael Holt

Michael Holt is director of commercial partnerships at sports audio specialist Voiceworks Sport and Sport Social Podcast Network.

Holt joined the company, which is backed by Communicorp UK, last year with over 20 years’ experience under his belt across audio and TV. Prior to joining Voiceworks Sport, he was the former head of studios at The Drum and held commercial director roles at Discovery Inc and TRACE. He’s had a number of sponsorship and strategy roles too, previously working at Virgin Radio, Guardian Media Group and the Radio Advertising Bureau.

In his role based in Manchester, he is tasked with developing new long-term brand and rights holders’ agreements for both Voiceworks Sport and Sport Social Podcast Network.

Voiceworks Sport and Sport Social Podcast Network work with rights holders and some of the biggest international sports brands to develop audio strategies for everything from podcasts to voice tech. Clients include EuroLeague Basketball, ParalympicsGB, World Freestyle Football Association, Sports Direct and Goal.

Here, he shared all the lessons he has learnt…


Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Other than listening to the excellent Football Social Daily podcast? Without a doubt, putting the kids to bed each evening. I have two young boys, Eddie and Danny. One of the bonuses of flexible working is that I can do this most days. It’s something I remember most of the dads I used to work with not being able to do, and something that really shouldn’t be taken for granted.

What’s been your luckiest break?

I’ve been fortunate to have carved out a long career in media, working with some brilliant people and great brands along the way; however, joining the team and being part of the journey with Voiceworks is a career highlight – a role which covers audio, podcasting and sport. I feel extremely fortunate!

What’s your best failure?

This wasn’t so much a failure of mine, but an agency I worked at went bust just before Christmas in 1999. Even though I was in dire straits due to not being paid, looking back I can see it as a transformative moment for me. It changed the trajectory of my career and kickstarted my journey in media working for the original Virgin Radio.

This was the beginning of a wonderful 24 years working in the media industry. From commercial roles at Discovery Inc, TRACE and The Drum, as well as sponsorship and strategy roles at Guardian Media Group and the Radio Advertising Bureau, to my current role at Voiceworks Sport, it’s been an absolute blast!

What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?

Investing time into getting fit has been very important. It’s something I admit I’m a little late to the party on, but it’s something now I really do enjoy.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

I’ve finally finished Sapiens – late to the party again! It’s a book of enormous scope covering 70,000 years of human history and attempts to explain how, we alone as a species, have become irresponsible masters of the world and are now poised to move on to greater/more destructive adventures.

It details what made homosapiens unique amongst other human species and how that has allowed us to create such myths as nations, capitalism, religions, cults, empires, companies and other tricks of the mind. A brilliant book for sure.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

This is the same advice as I give to some of my nieces and nephews now. Don’t always think the career you are in now will be the thing you will be doing for the rest of your life. I was working on building sites when I was 21, unaware of what the media industry had in store for me. The opportunities are out there – go and grab them!

Podcasting wasn’t even a thing when I was 21, now it’s a market with a forecast sales value of £34.5bn globally by 2026, and I’m an active player in this industry. That’s something I could’ve never predicted as a 21-year-old.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

Martin Heaton Cooper. Martin employed me at NBC Universal and again at Discovery Networks. He was a great leader, taught me everything I know in media and is still a good friend to this day.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I can damp proof your house! It was my trade after leaving school and before moving to the bright lights of the big city. It’s doesn’t quite have the same glamour as working in the audio and TV landscape, but a skill that will always be very handy.

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

Working from home was still not ‘trusted’, so to speak, before lockdown. COVID has accelerated the hybrid model as well as the tech required to successfully work from home.

It is easier to connect with people sometimes too, in a digitally transformed world. My role now is all about developing long-term brand and rightsholder partnerships all over the globe, and technology helps accelerate that. Though you can’t beat the in-person at times!

What does success look like to you?

Success to me means maintaining balance in my life. Whilst it’s important to work hard and accomplish your goals, it’s also massively important to remember to take care of myself, enjoy life, and to spend time with family and friends.

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