ESPN’s new sportsbook will soon be available. It seems more real now that the company has released its logo for ‘ESPN Bet’. ESPN Bet is a joint venture between the sports programming network and PENN Entertainment.
ESPN Bet is scheduled to hit the market in some states as early as November. North Carolina sports betting will launch between January and June of 2024, and we expect ESPN Bet to be among the offerings for Tar Heel State sports bettors.
Observers may be shocked at the absence of the familiar ESPN red in the ESPN Bet logo. Instead, the brand has elected to utilize a blue background with a mint font.
“The mint color is a twist on the traditional ESPN colorways, but one we think complements the overall portfolio well,” said ESPN Creative Studio vice-president of storytelling Chin Wang.
According to ESPN, choosing a new color signals an emerging product category.
“ESPN Red is strong, standard-bearer; ESPN+ Gold is premium storytelling, exclusive; and now we have ESPN BET Mint, which is fun and innovative — two traits we expect to come through when fans experience the new sportsbook.”
In August, PENN Entertainment stunned the gambling industry when it announced a 10-year, $1.5 billion deal to license the ESPN brand from Disney for a sports betting product. PENN simultaneously announced that it was severing its ties with Barstool. The new sportsbook, dubbed ESPN Bet, could shake up the industry, which is dominated by the two leading sports betting operators, DraftKings and FanDuel.
ESPN Bet now has a logo, and we know what the brand is trying to do with that design. But, what do we think of it?
What we like and don’t like about the ESPN Bet logo
👍 It’s clever and it pops
The secondary logo (thumbnail) features the iconic ESPN ‘E’ inside a stylized uppercase ‘B’ (for Bet). That’s clever and works well.
It’s also wise to use something recognizable because that secondary logo will be the mobile app favicon and website browser favicon. Gradually, as consumers use ESPN Bet, that ‘E in the B’ combo will become familiar.
We aren’t completely sold on the choice of mint for the logo wordmark, but we understand what ESPN and PENN are trying to do there. The introduction of an unexpected color for the new ESPN Bet brand represents boldness, and like the use of gold for ESPN+, could be successful.
👎 It’s confusing and lacks consistency
The primary logo is uninspiring. It’s simply the ESPN logo in white with the word ‘BET’ in a new font that doesn’t appear elsewhere in the ESPN style guide. The two words, in different fonts and colors, don’t easily cohere into a unified brand logo.
One designer asked for his opinion stated that the ‘BET’ reminded him of Black Entertainment Television, and read like an initialism, not a word. Because ESPN is also an initialism for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, the second line creates ambiguity in whether it should be read the same way or pronounced as a word.
Another designer admitted they didn’t immediately recognize the thumbnail logo as a ‘B’.
We agree. Going further, after looking at the thumbnail image, the nested “E” in the classic ESPN font looks more and more like a 2. Overall, both logos create a disjointed reaction to the eye and leave us a bit dizzy.
Verdict: solid logo for a new product category from a classic brand
It would be easy to pillory ESPN and PENN for this logo. No choice satisfies everyone. But, while ESPN Creative didn’t take many chances here, they leaned heavily on tradition. That’s a wise decision.
Founded in 1979, ESPN is a classic brand with an iconic logo. It would have been a mistake to go way out on a design limb for ESPN Bet. Instead, choosing a relatively safe logo is preferable, since it leverages the recognizable and largely respected brand that is ESPN.
Even if you don’t like it, remember sports bettors, if the brand delivers a sound user experience to North Carolina sports bettors, the logo will become a non-issue.