We all know the great ESPN personalities, like Stephen A. Smith and Adrian Wojnarowski, who are seen on the TVs and phones of sports fans every day. The one you probably don’t know is Brendan Kaminsky, the man who guides these personalities to success on social media.
Kaminsky currently runs the social media and branding agency bknown, which is at 1. February has begun. Before that, he worked full time for ESPN’s social media team for over 6 years.
He has worked on branded properties such as the NBA at ESPN, SportsCenter and NFL at ESPN and led an internal initiative to work with ESPN characters on their social media strategy. Among the personalities he works with are Stephen A. Smith, Adrian Wojnarowski, Adam Schefter and Ronnie2k.
Kaminsky answered ClutchPoints’ questions about his experience at ESPN, his first days at the agency, his favorite sports memories, his advice to social media talent and more.
What factors led to your decision to leave a prestigious company like ESPN and create your own independent agency? What possessed you to do this?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial by nature, and I realized this was the next challenge in my career. ESPN has been an incredible experience and the ultimate platform, and personally I wanted to expand my work beyond the walls of ESPN. I lay in bed for hours at night, feeling that tapping inside of me every day telling me to do it and urging me to take the plunge. I felt it was time, because everything was burning inside me. And I had faith in my experience, my connections and the support around me to bring it all together and create my own agency.
When did your passion for sports begin and how has it shaped your career?
My passion started at a young age. I grew up a huge sports fan, watching games with my dad and siblings and attending events in person. We had Philadelphia Eagles season tickets and 76ers season tickets, and we never missed a Sunday football game. My passion for sports has been a driving force in my career, as I have always wanted to follow my passion into the business world. I wanted to do what I loved and I wanted to build a career that made me happy. Sports and entertainment have always motivated me. I had experience in other industries, such as finance, and quickly realized that this was not a long-term game for me.
How did you go from fan to social media manager for some of the biggest names in sports? Are there any special moments that set you apart in such a competitive industry?
Lots of long hours and unconventional work days and nights. You must be willing to work at times when others are not available: Holidays, evenings, weekends, etc. By showing others that you are willing to do the dirty work and work long hours at unsociable times, you will gain the trust of managers and colleagues in the industry. I am fortunate to work with some of the smartest and most talented people in the sport. Over the years, I have done my best to perfect my craft and have the confidence to be a solid resource for those around me. I have worked professionally in social media for over 8 years and I am confident in my ability to train and produce others and have always felt comfortable working with talent.
What are your best memories of working at ESPN? Funny behind-the-scenes anecdotes from radio personalities we all know?
The best part about working at ESPN is learning from the incredibly smart people around you. I was able to learn from some of the brightest people in the industry and develop skills I never expected. The best thing about working for the world’s largest sports company is connecting with like-minded people who can inspire you to be better. Some of my fondest memories are definitely working with ESPN personalities in high pressure situations. For example, I worked on the 2019 NBA Draft lottery, the year Zion Williamson was drafted. After the Knicks didn’t win the lottery, Stephen A. Smith sent me a video to tell me that the Knicks screwed up again because they missed the big prize of getting the Zion Williamson unicorn. I got an early look at this video, and after it posted, it was the most entertaining video on all of Twitter for NBA Draft lottery content. It’s empowering to be so close to some of these incredibly viral moments created by such industry influencers.
DAMMIT !!!!! Typical KNICKS !!!!! pic.twitter.com/rn0hDF0JdE
– Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) May 15, 2019
Are there any special moments in the big events you’ve covered that stood out to you? Is there an event that you consider your favorite?
Two moments that I have experienced in my life stand out: Kyrie Irving scored the game winner in Game 7 of the NBA Finals and Deshaun Watson defeated Alabama in the college football national championship. Seeing the raw emotion up close was truly inspiring, and I never thought I would be so close to the action. I’ll never forget the video I took of Dabo Swinney hugging Deshaun Watson a few yards away and crying on the field minutes after the clock hit zero. Frankly, the best parts of these great events are the ones you can share with colleagues and others in the industry. Meeting other professionals and developing your network is the biggest benefit of attending these events with your access. I have built countless relationships by traveling and meeting people.
What are the biggest opportunities for social media talent to grow and thrive? Are there any pitfalls to avoid?
Consistency with social media is generally excellent. If you show up occasionally, you won’t like the algorithms. Especially to make the talent seem human. Social media gives you a chance to connect more closely with your fans and not come across as a larger-than-life character. Designers attract a lot more people than brands, so it’s a huge platform and opportunity. Don’t waste it by giving your keys to someone else who doesn’t know your voice, doesn’t speak your language and isn’t a robot. Just because you hire a producer or social media agency to take care of things for you doesn’t mean you can just sit back and watch. You have to record videos, make sounds, write subtitles and be active. Otherwise, people won’t see the social media creator behind it, and brands won’t find it appealing.
Sources. @wojespn pic.twitter.com/NKVxwxXQpp
– Brendan Kaminsky (@BKaminsky) June 22, 2019
What differentiated benefits do you see in the experience of opening a branch?
Experience, a great passion for social media, a proven track record and an honest reputation. I’ve been involved in social media since 2012. I’ve seen platforms evolve, strategies change, and I’ve tested thousands and thousands of pieces of content. I am confident that my experience in working directly with talent and my more than six years at ESPN, will allow me and my agency to be successful in any project that comes our way. I am very excited to use all the knowledge and experience I have gained to help others. I like to be resourceful and make sure the people we hire share the same vision.