What is your name and what do you do/average day?
Gianina Thompson: As the senior publicist for ESPN, I serve as a spokeswoman for the network’s NBA and MLB properties. I pitch and facilitate media story ideas and manage media requests and press conferences for ESPN’s on-air personalities and analysts with sports and lifestyle publications. I write press releases that include new on-air personalities, celebrities /athletes joining a show, ratings/viewership for games and write articles for the company’s blogs that serve as a “front row” experience for fans and employees. I also work heavily with the NBA and MLB leagues. This is maybe a slice of what I do as it varies day to day with sports always making no day like the last. I attend major events and games and keep constant communications with on air personalities … and it’s not always to talk sports! Sometimes it’s just to laugh out loud about TV series, ha! Trust me, sports fans can be other kind of fans too!
Are there any childhood experiences that led you to where you are today?
Hmmm, good question. I wouldn’t say that taking karate / Tae Kwon Do and becoming a black belt in middle school led to me wanting to be in sports and doing what I do now. In college is where I really found my motivation in wanting to be in the sports industry. My master’s thesis focused on how/why/if male college athletes aspire to play their sport professionally more than female college athletes. The simple answer is yes, but I explored the “why” by looking at the influence of several factors like fans, media, networks, funding/money in college programs and leagues, ratings/viewership and more.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
This may sound like a cliché, but my 14-year old sister is my inspiration, hands down. We have this extreme age gap but I’m not ashamed to say that she is my best friend. Moving up to the ESPN headquarters was bitter sweet because it was a dream job but it also meant that I couldn’t just hang out with my little sister whenever I wanted or just be the cool big sis picking her up from school and taking her to the movies and seeing her dominate the soccer field. But I have a great boss who makes it easy for me to go visit my family in Virginia throughout the year. Ok, I got side-tracked from the question, but my sister is my inspiration to be the best I can be because I basically want to be the cool big sister, ha!
What tangible piece of advice would you give young girls who want to be where you are?Look to build relationships, not a rolodex… and that takes time, but just because something takes time that doesn’t mean you should try to take shortcuts. My favorite quote is: Never hope for it more than you work for it…. And that’s not just for athletes, that’s for any and every one wanting to excel in whatever he or she is pursuing.
What do you love most about being a woman?
That we have bigger sections in a clothing store, ha. Just kidding, even though I do enjoy that! I would say that the sky is the limit because there are so many ways we can make our mark… but again, we can’t give up just because it will take more time or challenges and obstacles will come up that may not be faced by someone else. I’m using a Spiderman quote here, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and as women we have to keep talking the talk and walking the walk because even though we have challenges unlike others, we can’t become our own obstacles.
What is your most memorable moment thus far as ESPN's Senior Publicist?
For some reason this questions always stumps me whenever people ask me. I’ve had so many amazing experiences that I can’t just pick one. But one that happened ahead of me joining ESPN and continued once I became an ESPNer was my relationship with Skip Bayless. He’s selflessly given me career advice, tips on my writings, encouragement and just time to talk about different things. I work with a lot of different talent but he’s by far the one who took the time to learn more about me and my goals than what I could do for him as a PR person. You don’t come around that too often in a fast paced industry like sports.
Do you think many people would find it difficult being a woman in your line of work?
I think everyone has a different story and I can’t speak for everyone. I know I’m surrounded by some pretty awesome women who have made it big so I just tell myself, “Well why can’t I?” or “What’s stopping me from taking it to the next level too?” Everyone has something that may be challenging facing them so I’m not going to play the victim role of something out of my control. I’m just going to rock n roll with it and be the best I can be!
What's your favorite sport and who's your favorite athlete?
Wow…. That’s a hard one. Strong tie between NFL and NBA. I love good basketball so I can’t say I have a favorite team because with trades my allegiance changes because I’m more player-specific. For example, it used to be the Boston Celtics because I loved how Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen played together under the coaching of Doc Rivers—it was FUN watching them play against any team. But now everyone is somewhere else, even the coach! Anyone and everyone who knows me, knows that I am a HUGE Cam Newton fan so I’m locked in on the Carolina Panthers right now.
What is one thing many people do not know about you?
I pour milk in the bowl before the cereal.
Our fun question: If you could be any animal what would it be and why?
A jackal because their hunting involves the whole family with a tag-team kind of sensation. Teamwork makes the dream work when there’s trust and from what I see on National Geographic, jackals have that down packed!
What does the future hold for you?
Your guess is as good as mine; I’m working on always progressing and making “tomorrow” better than “yesterday” but still enjoying “today.” Hopefully that make sense, but it’s a philosophy I’m living by.
Where can people find you?
I love Twitter! Definitely follow me on Twitter @Gianina_ESPN for behind the scenes action at games, ESPN shows, cool articles featuring ESPN’s on-air personalities and some quirkiness on my side at times, ha! I’m also on Instagram @GiaPlusNina.