ESPN's Laura Gentile on the NY Rangers, Eli Manning, and 'There's No Place Like Sports'
Laura Gentile is ESPN's SVP of marketing and social media. She is responsible for building upon a catalog of award-winning creative for the ESPN brand—including all shows, platforms and special events—and oversees ESPN's social media content.
Gentile has held a variety of strategic roles at ESPN, and was instrumental to the 2010 launch of espnW, ESPN's first dedicated business built to serve women.
Laura honed her marketing and advertising skills as a senior partner, management supervisor, at Ogilvy, leading the development of IBM's e-business infrastructure campaign.
A graduate of Duke University in 1994, Gentile garnered All-America and All-ACC honors in field hockey and was a two-time team captain. She led Duke to its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament and was named to the ACC's 50th Anniversary field hockey team.
We spoke to Laura for our Time-Out series, where we chat with folks in the sports world about their favorite athletes, teams, sports movies and shows, and their love of sports generally.
Laura, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up on Long Island, New York—Lake Grove, to be exact—and now live in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.
Your earliest sports memory.
Bucky Dent's three-run homer to help the Yankees beat the Red Sox in the 1978 American League East playoff game. I was 6.
Your favorite sports teams.
All New York, all the time. And very loyal to the Yankees, Giants and Rangers. I also love Duke since I went there. Especially Duke field hockey.
Your favorite athlete.
Eli Manning, for being the consummate teammate, humble leader and clutch performer. And he's a pretty fun dad on Twitter. Eli always carried himself with such class and dignity and created so many memories for Giants fans. Even my mom loves him! She cried when he played his last game.
Your favorite sports show or podcast.
My favorite show right now is live New York Ranger games. It's the one show I sit down with all my boys (three) and watch. We scream, holler, cheer and celebrate together. And often watch, sadly, as the Rangers lose another one-goal game. But the team is young and exciting, and they'll be very good soon.
Your favorite sports movie.
Too many to choose just one: A League of Their Own, The Natural, Miracle ("Again!"), Rocky, Hoosiers, Bull Durham … everything you love about sports—inspiration, drama, dreams pursued, humor and achievement.
A recent project you're proud of.
The creation of "There's No Place Like Sports," which is ESPN's brand campaign. It's a beautiful, simple idea and over the past two years it's enabled us to share the power of sports with fans. Through the campaign we have told the story of sports, navigated the pandemic, and kept pace with culture. The campaign has enabled us to laugh, cry, shout and smile right alongside our fans.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
I admire how Spotify has hooked me. Their recommendation engine and song selections based on my behavior have actually taught me a little bit about myself. Their product, in the way it's built and functions, has surprised me, delighted me and made me a brand loyalist.
What sports can do that nothing else can.
Sports makes you feel deeply. It stirs emotions. It thrills you. It saddens you. It enlivens you. It gets your blood pumping and the adrenaline flowing. Live sports and the storytelling inherent in every game, with every athletic feat and in every athlete's journey, is endlessly compelling. It's compelling to me, and literally to millions and millions of sports fans like me.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the sports world.
A graphic designer or writer.