The NBA Finals begin Thursday night, with two of the league’s biggest stars, LeBron James and Steph Curry, set to face off for the NBA title. But while many will look at how the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors played up to this point, it’s also a great time to check out how some of the NBA’s biggest sponsors performed during the season.
The common thought among many investors is that Curry’s star power hasn’t helped Under Armour UAA stock much over the last year, as it tries to adjust to life as a much bigger company. Curry’s direct impact is debatable, but the company’s stock price has performed rather well since the start of the 2017-18 NBA season in mid-October.
Let’s take a look at how it has stacked up against the NBA’s official jersey sponsor and basketball shoe juggernaut, Nike NKE, as well as Adidas ADDYY.
Investors will see that despite some of the recent love thrown Adidas’ way, both Nike and Under Armour stock have greatly outperformed the German sports apparel powerhouse since the start of the NBA season. Clearly, there are many other factors impacting these stocks aside from the exposure that the NBA provides, but it is a fun exercise nonetheless.
Nike, which became the official jersey sponsor of the NBA this season, greatly outpaced its two closest rivals. With that said, this season also marked the first time the NBA allowed jersey sponsorship patches. In total, 21 out of the 30 teams played with a patch during the first season, with companies paying an average of $6.5 million per year to place their logo on a team’s jersey—worn by both the players and fans.
The inaugural jersey patch season saw some major publicly traded companies join in on the NBA’s growing business. This list includes General Electric (GE - Free Report) , Disney (DIS - Free Report) , Harley-Davidson (HOG - Free Report) , Western Union WU, Fitbit (FIT - Free Report) , Lending Tree (TREE - Free Report) , Sun Life (SLF - Free Report) , Ultimate Software (ULTI - Free Report) , and Goodyear (GT - Free Report) .
Clearly, some of the bigger names on the list have all gone through a massively disappointing stretch during their first year as official team jersey sponsors. It’s also worth noting that three out of the four conference finals teams that had a sponsor this year—the Warriors and Japanese electronics firm Rakuten RKUNY; the Cavaliers and Goodyear; and the Boston Celtics and GE—all saw their stocks prices fall over 25% since the start of the season.
But don’t be surprised if underperforming companies continue their sponsorships as these investments offer a ton of exposure for a relatively small amount of marketing dollars. This becomes even more likely when looking at the NBA’s television ratings, which saw an 8% surge across the league’s four TV-network partners, Disney’s ABC and ESPN, Turner’s (TWX - Free Report) TNT, and NBA TV.
Investors might remember that the NBA is currently benefiting hugely from its nine-year, $24 billion rights deal with ESPN and Turner that runs through the '24-25 season. This is significant money even for these entertainment giants, which means it’s worth taking a look at how ESPN parent Disney and Turner owner Time Warner have performed throughout this season.
Biggest Corporate Sponsors
Lastly, it is worth taking a look at some of the NBA’s overall corporate partners, which not only advertise heavily but also sponsor the league. Three of the league’s biggest corporate partners are American Express Company (AXP - Free Report) , Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD - Free Report) , and PepsiCo (PEP - Free Report) via Frito-Lay, Mountain Dew, and Gatorade.
Obviously, all of the companies touched on throughout this article have much larger priorities beyond their affiliation with the NBA. Therefore, none of this stock price movement is a direct reflection on the NBA’s growing business, which saw its overall sponsor revenue surge 31% to $1.12 billion—placing it not too far behind the NFL.
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