Kim Garner is the Director of Broadcasters at Atlanta-based CSE, a global sports agency that focuses on marketing, public relations, media production, client representation and digital media. A graduate of the University of Georgia, the 26-year-old Garner represents the likes of Kristen Ledlow (NBA TV/Turner Sports), Coy Wire (Fox Sports), Evan Washburn (new NFL sideline reporter for CBS) and other sports broadcasters.
When did you first decide you wanted to work in sports? What was your initial motivation?
I grew up playing sports year-round, my older brother always let me play pickup games with his friends, and my dad taught me the ins and outs of football at a really young age. Coming from such a sports heavy family, I always knew that sports would be part of my life. When I started at the University of Georgia, my focus was to earn a marketing degree so that I could do sports marketing. The goal was to work for a brand like Nike or Coca-Cola, who are obviously very involved in sports. Long story short, rather than graduating from college early, I found that I could easily fit in another degree in Sports Management and it seemed like a no-brainer. Additionally, I began working at the University’s Athletic Association and that solidified my vision of working in sports.
You worked in public relations with the Atlanta Falcons prior to joining CSE in 2011. Why did you switch from PR to the agency side of the sports industry?
I got my start with the University of Georgia SID department where media relations was my focus. Between that and an internship and seasonal work with the Falcons, I really gained a thorough understanding of the media and the coverage of sports at both the collegiate and professional level. It forced me to look at sports coverage in a different way and I began forming relationships with so many different people at all of the various outlets. I took that knowledge and found myself with an opportunity to work with an NFL player agency after school where I would help with PR and media along with other responsibilities. The agency side really stuck with me because of the impact you can have on one person’s life. The ability to help manage, guide, and hopefully help your clients reach their potential was much more my world. Working at the NFL agency helped me in my transition to CSE.
You were recently promoted to the Director of Broadcasters at CSE. How does your new position differ from your former one (responsibilities, projects, traveling, etc.)?
While the everyday role of recruiting and managing the careers of our clients hasn’t changed, I will focus even more now on the bigger picture of our division. Over the past year or two, we have expanded into the news and entertainment market by adding Traci Wilkes to our group. Matt Kramer, VP of Broadcasters, has laid the groundwork for both those spaces to coincide together, and my role will certainly be to continue to navigate our growth in the sports media world as well as the news media world. The broadcast division as a whole — including sports, news, and editorial — at CSE has added over 100 clients in the past few years years, so I will focus on growing our group at the proper pace with only the best talent.
How much competition is there to recruit broadcasting talent? How do you differentiate yourselves from other agents/agencies?
There is tremendous competition within the industry when it comes to recruiting talent. There are agents who may have been around longer but that is part of the game. What I think differentiates CSE from the other agencies is our relationships, not just with the clients but also with their bosses. We’ve been fortunate at CSE to have executives here who have gone on to run major sports properties we deal with, such as NBC Sports. The difference here is that CSE is an agency of over 200 employees. We aren’t a small operation, and because of that we have the ability to partner some of our broadcasters with some of our corporate clients when the fit is perfect. On a personal level, while we may be a bigger company, we still carry with us the attitude that representation of talent is still inherently a “personal relationship”. And with that, I can promise my clients that when you call me, you will talk to me and not an assistant, and I think that is very important in this industry.
What’s it like being a younger female in a male-dominated industry?
While my age and gender may be a selling point to some, I honestly don’t view my position within this industry as female vs. male or young vs. old. There are great agents out there and I view anyone who is not with CSE as my competition. I strive daily to be the best at what I do and to provide the best representation to my clients.
If you could have/name a ‘dream job’ for yourself, what would that be and why?
Although this is cheesy, I truly love what I do. Seeing the positive affects that I can have on someone’s life is fantastic. That said, if I were to pick a “dream job”, it would probably be something along the lines of being the head of Player Personnel for an NFL team. To have the ability to scout and build a team to your liking would be a really exciting job. If I were to have a dream job outside of sports, I have always been really intrigued by world politics, so to be the Secretary of State would be a pretty fascinating role.
What are two absolute necessary skills to be an agent and why?
The first absolutely necessary skill for an agent is ability to communicate personally with anyone. I don’t just mean talking to anyone, but actually connecting with everyone. With such a relationship based industry, it really is crucial to be able to adapt and connect with so many different types of people.
The second skill that is necessary for an agent is proactivity. Nothing is going to be handed to you and there is always more that can be done. Our best results come from when we take the initiative to make things happen rather than waiting for things to happen.
What advice would you give aspiring sports business professionals who want to work in the sports agency industry and specifically, representing broadcasters/sports media personalities?
For those who are looking to get into the sports industry, my first bit of advice is to start as early as possible. Volunteer to work while in school and try to get as many internships/ part time jobs as possible. I believe the best way to learn is to do. The sports industry is a very sexy world to work in, so there are always people fighting for jobs. The more work you put in early the better your chances. As for representing talent, be aggressive, creative, and honest. If you want to work at an agency, you need to show what sets you apart from others who want the same job. My last bit of advice is to never burn a bridge. This is a small industry, even when getting started. You never know who you will be working with some day and solid relationships will only help.