This is the strategic roadmap in the first months of ESPN BET

After being one of the highlight topics in the presentations and informal talks at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, the anticipated logo and colors that will define the corporate identity of the 'ESPN Bet' brand have been unveiled. But beyond the striking design, we are in a position to reveal crucial decisions that will shape the company's first months of operations.

As we previously highlighted in the detailed INFOPLAY feature on Disney's venture into the U.S. sports betting market, leveraging the immense popularity of its ESPN multi-channel sports subscription service, the project was nearing its launch.

Yesterday, on October 19th, Penn Entertainment and ESPN unveiled both the logo and the brand identity for their new sports betting venture: ESPN Bet.

Beyond the statements from the top executives of both companies (Penn Entertainment and ESPN/Disney) during the ESPN Bet logo reveal, we've gathered details from U.S. media outlets regarding their plans, launch timelines, collaboration with ESPN, partnerships with sports events and media formats, and whether this new player can live up to the market share expectations.

Unveiling at the Global Gaming Expo

At the recent Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, there was significant buzz around the imminent launch of ESPN Bet.

Several discussions drew parallels between ESPN Bet's debut and Fanatics' foray into sports betting. Fanatics is renowned for its apparel and merchandise rights for major North American sports leagues (MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL, NASCAR) and other global events like Formula 1.

The suspense ended with the ESPN Bet presentation, where Jay Snowden, Penn's CEO, and Mike Morrison, ESPN's VP of Sports Betting and Fantasy Sports, hinted at a potential launch date for their app in licensed states.

Eye-catching Logo

The chosen colors for the ESPN Bet logo are mint green and navy blue, setting the tone for the brand's visual identity across advertising, marketing, the app, and social media platforms. They've also opted for a design featuring an "E" nested within a "B" for mobile device icons.

The design choice is believed to be aimed at ensuring the brand stands out during sports broadcasts and programs across various ESPN formats.

Mobile First

Recent U.S. gaming initiatives, spanning Betting, Poker, Casino, and even Fantasy Sports, have shown a clear focus on mobile users.

Consequently, ESPN Bet will debut as an app, with a standout version for Apple's iOS devices, which dominate the U.S. market.

Jay Snowden, Penn's president and CEO, mentioned that after five months of rigorous development, the app has successfully completed its testing phase. By mid-November, it's expected to be available for both iOS and Android devices.

Disney envisions the future of sports betting as an immersive multimedia experience, intertwined with traditional broadcasting. This makes the seamless functioning of their tech platform crucial.

A Robust, Long-term Partnership

The collaboration between Penn National Gaming (a frontrunner in entertainment and casino games) and Disney (via its sports-centric ESPN brand) led to several strategic moves. This includes Penn parting ways with its betting brand, Barstool, and ESPN acquiring a stake in Penn.

While the partnership seems poised for success, there's caution in the air. The challenges faced by FOXBet (a Flutter+FOX venture) and Fanatics' struggles to gain a foothold in four states this summer have led to skepticism about ESPN Bet achieving the market share Penn has been projecting to its shareholders.

Insiders believe the partnership terms are favorable but might harbor overly optimistic expectations, especially in states with long-established regulated markets.

However, the first six months of ESPN Bet's operations are anticipated to provide insights, given the concerted efforts to enhance the brand's visibility.

A Thanksgiving Debut

The decision to launch the ESPN Bet App in November aligns with Thanksgiving Day, a major U.S. holiday. This day features NFL games, traditionally watched by families, attracting significant betting volumes and viewership:
  • Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
  • Washington Commanders vs. Dallas Cowboys
  • San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks

The spotlight is on how the brand will be showcased ahead of these three games, set to air on FOX, CBS, and NBC – all of which, along with ESPN, hold NFL broadcasting rights in the U.S.

The Thanksgiving launch is slated for the 16 states where Penn Entertainment is licensed for sports betting, positioning it against competitors like DraftKings, Caesars, FanDuel, and BetMGM.

Draftkings' stock value has surged over 150% in the past year.

About the impact in the TV Schedule

A recurring analogy drawn by the U.S. mainstream media, when discussing companies like Disney venturing into sports betting markets, is the state-wise legalization and regulation of cannabis.

The evolving societal acceptance of both sports betting and cannabis consumption has paved the way for major corporations to delve into these now mainstream industries. This shift isn't just evident in consumption patterns but also in advertising and marketing expenditures.

However, the collaboration between sports-centric media outlets like ESPN and sports betting entities isn't new. Numerous media conglomerates have long sought to acquire esteemed brands to operate within the legal gaming realm.

ESPN aims to maximize its investment and bolster its brand by integrating sports betting, emulating the success trajectory of companies like DraftKings and FanDuel. Originating outside the traditional betting realm (from the fantasy sports niche), they've ascended to market leadership, outpacing established betting entities.

As for the ripple effect of betting on ESPN's content lineup, projections suggest that this NFL regular season might witness a blend of traditional content and segments emphasizing NFL sports betting during "Monday Night Football" prime time slots. If this integration proves successful, similar incorporations might be seen across other time slots and sports genres, with UFC (mixed martial arts) and NBA being top contenders.

The possibility of introducing sports betting segments under the new brand in sports podcasts is also under consideration. Podcasts have seen monumental success in the U.S., with ESPN pioneering some hit shows. Generally, these audio and/or video broadcasts can amass millions of listeners, even if they aren't produced by major networks or studios.

ESPN's podcasts, like the one featuring the Manning brothers, might soon spotlight ESPN Bet.
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