Are NFL Stadium Naming Rights Worth It? We Crunch the Numbers

Posted in: deals, In the News, naming rights, similar companies, sports

As Los Angeles prepares to receive the former St. Louis Rams (and possibly others), the city’s hottest companies are probably considering buying the naming rights to the NFL’s newest stadium. After all, Gillette Stadium and CenturyLink field draw millions of visitors – not to mention eyeballs – every year. But is the visibility worth the cost? DataFox crunched the numbers to see whether companies that buy exclusive naming rights to NFL stadiums really get their money’s worth.

Verdict: Don’t buy that stadium

We analyzed 20 public companies who currently own naming rights to NFL stadiums, comparing their returns one, three and five years after the stadium’s purchase. We then compared them to returns from their competitors (found using the DataFox similar companies feature) during the same time period. On average, companies that bought stadium naming rights performed worse than their competitors – and in the first year, much worse:

Average returns

Bought Naming Rights Competitors Difference
One-Year Return -17.12% -0.95% -16.17%
Three-Year Return 10.25% 8.70% 1.550%
Five-Year Return 17.64% 20.93% -3.29%

 

It looks like the stadium curse is alive and well: companies took a major hit the year they bought naming rights. Even in the longer term, those eight or so home games don’t bring much of a benefit.

A one-tailed heteroskedastic t-test found virtually no difference in the average three- and five-year returns; the only (sort of) significant result was in the first year, when those that bought naming rights underperformed their competitors (p=0.09). Whoever the Rams are courting to hang their name on the new Los Angeles Stadium, they’re better off spending their marketing dollars elsewhere.

Metric p-value
One-Year Return 0.092
Three-Year Return 0.466
Five-Year Return 0.460

 

Most fans, football and otherwise, will tell you that this makes sense. Ask someone where the Denver Broncos play, and they’re likely to say Mile High, not Sports Authority, Stadium; when you hear “CenturyLink Field,” you think raucous crowds, not high-speed internet. And exclusive naming rights don’t come cheap: MetLife pays $16 million a year for the Meadowlands, while Levi’s will shell out $220 million over 11 years to house the San Francisco 49ers. From what we’ve seen, it’s just not worth the money.

Methodology

DataFox compared financial returns from 20 companies who held exclusive naming rights to NFL stadiums. We excluded privately held companies, ones that were products (like Procter & Gamble’s Gillette or Daimler’s Mercedez-Benz), and stadiums with no naming rights (like Atlanta’s Georgia Dome or Green Bay’s Lambeau Field). We analyzed their one-, three- and five-year returns against their competitors, as identified by our Similar Companies algorithm and other sources.

For example, Sports Authority bought the naming rights to Mile High Stadium in 2011. We looked at Sports Authority stock returns between January 1, 2011 and January 1, 2012, 2014 and 2016. We then compared those to the returns of Dick’s Sporting Goods and Foot Locker between January 1, 2011 and January 1, 2012, 2014 and 2016. We got our stock return data from Google Finance; for some dates and companies, stock return information was not available.

For more information on our Similar Companies algorithm, read The Data-Driven Approach to Finding Similar Companies. To learn how to find similar companies using DataFox, check out 4 Ways to Search for Similar Companies with DataFox.