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Influenc-HER Profile Series: Gianina Thompson

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 peo