ESPN BET Screen grab: ESPN BET

ESPN launched its ESPN BET gambling app on Tuesday and the service has already garnered quite the following.

But the app’s 10.5 million combined followers on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and Instagram hardly happened organically, but rather, through a strategic rebrand.

Earlier this month, ESPN’s former SportsNation social media accounts announced that they would be rebranding to ESPN BET accounts ahead of the app’s Nov. 14 launch. While the rebranded accounts began posting gambling-related content last week, the remnants of the old SportsNation accounts remain, including the /SportsNation URL on Facebook.

“Soon, this account will focus on fantasy and sports betting content,” the accounts posted on Nov. 9. “We will still be fun & entertaining to enhance your fan experience while promoting responsible gaming habits. We hope you stick around!”


SportsNation first launched as a daily TV show hosted by Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle in 2009. Following the original hosts’ departures in 2012, the viewer-centric show underwent several iterations and hosts before being cancelled in 2018, and later revived for a two-year run on the ESPN+ streaming service in 2021.

While the show was hardly the biggest ratings draw, it did develop a sizable following on social media as it often focused on viewer polls and viral content. Understandably, ESPN didn’t want to let that following go to waste, although it’s somewhat curious the company opted to go with rebranded accounts for a project as high profile as its first gambling app.

The ESPN BET app has received no shortage of attention dating back to Penn Entertainment’s announcement that it was selling Barstool Sports back to founder Dave Portnoy and entering a 10-year, $1.5 billion licensing agreement with ESPN to form its new betting app. While the sports betting market is certainly a crowded one, ESPN has the name recognition — and promotional power — to make a dent. Its social media strategy, however, suggests that the company also knows it needs every advantage it can find.


About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.