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ESPN Bet Launched Yesterday…You Didn’t Know?!


I’ll admit that I’m not a big gambler.

I don’t have anything against gambling and I’m known to play a little poker from time to time or go to a casino when I’m somewhere that has one. 

My biggest issues are:

  • Concerns about health and mental wellness for problem gamblers.
  • The reliance on taxes to fund government programs as a way to make up revenues and plans in other areas. 
  • The reliance of sports gambling and sports gambling revenue to build interest and attention for sports because in a lot of instances the marketing done for the sports isn’t up to par, especially in the States. (See my recent viral piece about the state of play for marketing in the USA.)

Put that all aside because yesterday was launch day for ESPN Bet and I don’t think they did a good job of the launch. 

Just check out this thread from AJ Perez

I had a chance to go back and forth with AJ about the ESPN Bet launch and he found a few of my thoughts useful

But a few things I mentioned didn’t make it into the article. 

So I wanted to share a few other notes on the launch of ESPN Bet to help you think through this more effectively. 

I’ll give you a few quotes and thoughts that might help you because this didn’t have any of the trademarks of good product launches and rebrands are almost always failures…

  • The number one rule of rebranding…is don’t. 
  • Hollywood does the best product launches. They have a 30/60/90 day launch plan that drips and builds to opening weekend. 
  • ESPN Bet was announced on August 8th and then pretty much nothing until 12-13 days ago…and really we heard vague mentions of the launch but no real build. If anything, the most dominant narrative was all of the ways that ESPN was going to try and manage the integrity of their journalists and broadcasts with the partnership with PENN. 
  • 80% of a successful product launch happens in the pre-launch and launch. After the initial launch, if you don’t have a hit…it is unlikely that you’ll ever have a hit. There’s just too much competition for people’s attention. And, too much built in advantage for the early movers. 

From a numbers standpoint:

  • 81.8% of sports gamblers use multiple sites meaning that focusing on making ESPN’s audience a really aggressive and attractive offer could win them downloads that stick because 73.3% of sports bettors said that they’d view an ESPN betting site more favorably. 
  • It will be a challenge for ESPN Bet to catch on if the US slides into a recession because in Q4 of 2022 when the first signs of a possible economic downturn showed up, 49% of sports bettors cut back on this discretionary spending. 
  • ESPN has 200M visitors and 12M paid subscribers, but the key isn’t demographics, but behavioral segmentation and relative differentiation. High value bettors bet over $500 a month, but they are also highly sought after customers, meaning that customer acquisition isn’t as simple as rolling out the app, running some ads and promos, and raking in the cash. You are going to have to offer these high value targets something unique with a high perceived value. 
  • Is there enough room for growth, ESPN Bet is live in 17 states but not NY and Nevada where about 24% of online betting occurs. You have to question whether or not there is a strategy available that will help them reach the 10% or so of market share that PENN needs to be profitable. 

What’s your take on this? 

Let me know in the strategy/marketing Slack channel I’ve set up. Or, go old fashioned, and hit reply!