As Executive Vice President, Creative Studio and Marketing at ESPN, Tina Thornton is a key member of ESPN’s executive leadership team reporting to ESPN Chairman, Jimmy Pitaro.
In her current role, Tina is responsible for leading all of ESPN’s marketing efforts – overseeing all creative output for ESPN Marketing, overall media strategy, spending and budgeting, and fan engagement – across brands, events, platforms, and shows.
Thornton is instrumental to the ESPN brand, working collectively to enhance promotion for critical league partners inclusive of the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and F1, and vital priorities such as Fantasy Football, the ESPN App and ESPN+ (ESPN’s leading streaming service), among many others. Additionally, she’s responsible for fostering a culture that embraces new audience growth with strategies that engage youth, women, Hispanic and Black audiences through the ESPN ecosystem.
In addition, Thornton has oversight of ESPN Creative Studio, an award-winning centralized creative team that brings together groups from across ESPN as storytellers through design, animation, edit, music, creative production, visual journalism, photography, multi-platform commercial campaigns and branded content. Under Thornton’s strategic guidance, Creative Studio has accomplished what no other group has done – combined its internal content creative team with its in-house creative agency to serve audiences in the content, marketing and commercial space. In 2021, she added leadership of ESPN’s Corporate Citizenship group, which implements programs for social good through employee volunteerism, charitable giving, and cause marketing programs.
Thornton joined ESPN in 1993, right out of college, as a production assistant. Her decorated 30-year career at ESPN has included roles such as chief of staff to Pitaro, head of ESPN’s production operations team, oversight of ESPN’s directing team and leadership of ESPN Next, a dynamic career development program for employees across ESPN’s content division and The Walt Disney Company. Additionally, for more than a decade, she led the production of ESPN’s NCAA Championships coverage, overseeing 24 events including the women’s basketball tournament & Final Four (for 16 years), wrestling, lacrosse, and the Women’s College World Series.
A Cincinnati native, Thornton graduated from Wake Forest University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications in 1993. From 2002-05, Thornton served a three-year term on the Wake Forest Alumni Council, representing nearly 40,000 alumni worldwide. Thornton’s connection with Wake Forest continued in 2020 when she was appointed to the Wake Forest College Board of Visitors. Additionally, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Mercy College in 2019.
Thornton has received numerous accolades for her work in the media industry, including being named to the 2019 class of Sports Business Journal Game Changers, and the 2017 Women in Cable Television’s “Woman to Watch,” an accolade given to three women in the industry each year. In 2022, Thornton was named to SVG Advisory Board, joining a distinguished group of executives supporting SVG’s work in the sports industry. In 2023, she was selected to the board of directors for The American Red Cross of Connecticut.
Beyond her work in Content, Thornton has long served as an inspiration, mentor, and champion to employees at ESPN, sharing her personal experiences to help encourage and lift others, particularly women across the organization. In 2012, Thornton was selected as a mentor in the first year of the Global Sports Mentoring Program, an international leadership development program run by espnW and the U.S. Department of State. The program focuses on advancing gender equality by empowering women through sports.