Names that Swoon
Professional sports teams used to play in stadiums and arenas named for seemingly logical reasons. Some were named after their cities, or perhaps after their owners. But the current rage has been to name them for advertisers. Ten years ago, corporations had named only three professional sports venues—ARCO Arena in Sacramento, the Target Center in Minneapolis, and the Delta Center in Salt Lake City. Today, over 50 different arenas and stadiums have names courtesy of corporations eager for their names to be mentioned in the broadcast and written accounts of the games.
In the last four years, over 30 corporations have bought the rights to name sports venues, paying up to $205 million for the privilege. Some companies have gone so far as to repeat the process in two or even three cities. Naming rights go beyond just an advertising opportunity. They include the intangible prestige of naming a stadium and more tangible perquisites, like skyboxes for executives. The popularity of these purchases would generate the expectation that they help the stock price of the purchaser.
But fate and Wall Street have not smiled upon the companies that have bought naming rights. Today I issue the first, and perhaps only, financial recommendation from Bear-Left.com: a sell rating for any and all companies that have bought naming rights for a professional stadium. I also extend this rating to companies already committed to naming rights for new venues, including Ford Field in Detroit, CMGI Field outside Boston, and whichever unfortunate corporation renames 3Com Park in San Francisco.
The table below shows the overall financial performance of the publicly-traded companies that have bought the naming rights to sports venues. For comparison, the table includes the results of a security that mirrors the Standand and Poors 500 index. (These results do not include dividends, but do include the results of stock splits.)
|Stadium||Team||Sponsor||First Year||Length Of Contract||Estimated Value||Stock Price Then (1)||Stock Price Now (1)||Gain (Loss) (2)||S&P 500 (2)|
|Adelphia Coliseum||Tennessee Titans||Adelphia Communications||1999||15 years||$30 million||63.13||27.73||(56.1%)||(14.0%)|
|Air Canada Centre||Toronto Maple Leafs; Toronto Raptors||Air Canada||1999 (*)||15 years||$30.4 million||3.63||2.49||(31.4%)||(9.9%)|
|Alltel Stadium||Jacksonville Jaguars||Alltel Corp.||1997||10 years||$6.2 million||28.25||61.80||118.8%||102.9%|
|America West Arena||Phoenix Coyotes; Phoenix Suns||America West Airlines||1992||30 years||$26 million||0.47||0.00 (3)||(100%)||170.6%|
|American Airlines Arena||Miami Heat||American Airlines||1999 (*)||20 years||$42 million||29.96||21.89||(26.9%)||(21.7%)|
|American Airlines Center||Dallas Mavericks; Dallas Stars||American Airlines||2001||30 years||$195 million||18.00||21.89||21.6%||10.2%|
|Arco Arena||Sacramento Kings||British Petroleum||1997 (4)||7 years||$10 million||(**)||37.23||(**)||(**)|
|Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim||Mighty Ducks of Anaheim||Nestle||1993||10 years||$15 million||104.10||349.50||235.7%||147.8%|
|Bank One Ballpark||Arizona Diamondbacks||Bank One||1998||30 years||$66 million||63.38||38.85||(38.7%)||3.7%|
|Cinergy Field||Cincinnati Reds||Cinergy Corp.||1998||6 years||$6 million||36.63||31.77||(13.3%)||3.7%|
|Comerica Park||Detroit Tigers||Comerica Bank||2000||30 years||$86 million||43.88||56.50||28.8%||(24.0%)|
|Compaq Center||Houston Rockets||Compaq Computers||1997||8 years||$5.4 million||33.56||9.94||(70.4%)||22.3%|
|Compaq Center at San Jose||San Jose Sharks||Compaq Computers||2000||15 years||$49 million||30.25||9.94||(67.1%)||(21.3%)|
|Conseco Fieldhouse||Indiana Pacers||Conseco Inc.||1999||20 years||$40 million||23.00||3.68||(84.0%)||(15.2%)|
|Continental Airlines Arena||New Jersey Devils; New Jersey Nets||Continental Airlines||1996||12 years||$29 million||22.00||25.04||13.8%||67.1%|
|Coors Field||Colorado Rockies||Coors Brewing||1995||N/A||$15 million||16.38||59.27||261.8%||128.8%|
|Corel Centre||Ottawa Senators||Corel Corp.||1996 (*)||20 years||$17.6 million||10.13||1.93||(80.9%)||77.1%|
|Delta Center||Utah Jazz||Delta Airlines||1991||20 years||$25 million||31.06||28.97||(6.7%)||192.4%|
|Edison International Field||Anaheim Angels||Edison International||1998||20 years||$50 million||29.25||15.25||(47.9%)||3.7%|
|Enron Field||Houston Astros||Enron Corp.||2000||30 years||$100 million||73.56||0.53||(99.3%)||(24.0%)|
|Ericcson Stadium||Carolina Panthers||Ericsson Inc.||1996||10 years||$20 million||2.89||5.01||73.4%||74.8%|
|FedEx Field||Washington Redskins||Federal Express||1999||27 years||$205 million||44.06||51.83||17.6%||(-14.0%)|
|First Union Center (5)||Philadelphia Flyers; Philadelphia 76ers||Wachovia Corp.||1994||29 years||$40 million||(**)||51.03||(**)||(**)|
|FleetCenter||Boston Bruins; Boston Celtics||FleetBoston Financial||1995||15 years||$30 million||19.56||35.61||82.1%||96.7%|
|Gaylord Entertainment Center||Nashville Predators||Gaylord Entertainment||1999||20 years||$80 million||30.69||25.00||(18.5%)||(-12.9%)|
|General Motors Place||Vancouver Canucks||General Motors||1995||20 years||$18.5 million||47.50||47.31||(0.4%)||96.7%|
|Heinz Field||Pittsburgh Steelers||Heinz Corporation>||2001||20 years||$57 million||45.75||40.50||(11.5%)||1.3%|
|HSBC Arena||Buffalo Sabres||HSBC (6)||1996||30 years||$24 million||30.50||59.00||93.4%||67.1%|
|Invesco Field at Mile High||Denver Broncos||Amvescap||2001||20 years||$60 million||29.20||29.05||(0.5%)||1.3%|
|Key Arena||Seattle Supersonics||Key Corp.||1995||15 years||$15.1 million||17.06||24.02||40.8%||95.6%|
|MCI Center||Washington Capitals; Washington Wizards||MCI Communications Corp.||1995||20 years||$44 million||25.50||18.35 (7)||(28.0%)||96.7%|
|Mellon Arena||Pittsburgh Penguins||Mellon Financial Corp.||1999||10 years||$18 million||32.75||37.30||13.9%||(-12.9%)|
|Miller Park||Milwaukee Brewers||Philip Morris||2001||20 years||$41.2 mil||46.19||45.80||(0.8%)||0.7%|
|Molson Centre||Montreal Canadiens||Molson Companies||1996 (*)||20 years||$21 million||11.57||26.54||129.4%||75.9%|
|National Car Rental Center||Florida Panthers||ANC Rental Corp.||1998||10 years||$25 million||10.00 (8)||0.04||(99.6%)||10.5%|
|Network Associates Coliseum||Oakland Athletics; Oakland Raiders||Network Associates||1998 (*)||5 years||$6 million||31.44||26.05||(17.1%)||15.0%|
|Pacific Bell Park||San Francisco Giants||SBC||2000||24 years||$50 million||44.75||39.30||(12.2%)||(24.0%)|
|Pepsi Center||Colorado Avalanche; Denver Nuggets||PepsiCo||1999||20 years||$68 million||33.50||49.12||46.6%||(12.9%)|
|Philips Arena||Atlanta Hawks; Atlanta Thrashers||Royal Phillips Electronics||1999||20 years||$180 million||28.10||28.30||0.7%||(12.9%)|
|PNC Park||Pittsburgh Pirates||PNC Bank||2001||20 yrs||$30 mil||68.25||55.75||(18.3%)||0.7%|
|Pro Player Stadium||Florida Marlins; Miami Dolphins||Fruit Of The Loom||1997||10 years||$20 million||40.88||0.24||(99.4%)||51.5%|
|PSINet Stadium||Baltimore Ravens||PSINet||1998||20 years||$105.5 million||6.25||0.01||(99.8%)||14.9%|
|Qualcomm Stadium||San Diego Padres||Qualcomm Inc.||1997||20 years||$18 million||7.40||49.99||575.5%||51.5%|
|Raymond James Stadium||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Raymond James Financial||1998||18 years||$55 million||17.38||34.45||98.2%||14.9%|
|RCA Dome||Indianapolis Colts||General Electric||1994||10 years||$10 million||8.38||41.35||393.4%||142.0%|
|Safeco Field||Seattle Mariners||Safeco Corp.||1999 (*)||20 years||$36 million||40.63||30.46||(25.0%)||(18.5%)|
|Savvis Center||St. Louis Blues||Savvis Corp.||2000||20 years||$70 million||10.56||0.57||(94.6%)||(21.3%)|
|Staples Center||Los Angeles Clippers; Los Angeles Kings; Los Angeles Lakers||Staples||1999||20 years||$100 million||21.25||18.41||(13.4%)||(15.2%)|
|Target Center||Minnesota Timberwolves||Target||1990||15 years||$18.75 million||4.05||38.21||843.5%||272.6%|
|TD Waterhouse Centre||Orlando Magic||TD Waterhouse||2000||5 years||$7.8 million||17.19||9.48||(44.9%)||(19.3%)|
|3Com Park||San Francisco 49ers||3Com Corp.||1995||5 years||$4 million||8.07||6.24||(22.7%)||102.9%|
|TransWorld Dome||St. Louis Rams||Trans World Airlines (9)||1995||20 years||$36.7 million||10.00 (8)||0.00||(100.0%)||102.9%|
|Tropicana Field||Tampa Bay Devil Rays||Pepsico (10)||1998 (*)||30 years||$46 million||35.00||49.12||40.3%||10.0%|
|United Center||Chicago BlackHawks; Chicago Bulls||United Airlines||1994||20 years||$36 million||23.75||13.02||(45.2%)||141.3%|
|Xcel Energy Center||Minnesota Wild||Xcel Energy||2000||25 years||$75 million||26.63||27.47||3.2%||(21.3%)|
(1) Original Stock price as of the start of the first season played during the naming rights contract. Current stock price as of the end of trading on 21 December 2001. This analysis assumes that baseball season starts on 1 April, football season starts on 1 September, hockey season on 15 September, and backetball season on 1 November. Stock prices are as of the close of the first trading day on or after these dates, except as otherwise indicated. Ending stock prices are adjusted for any stock splits and do not take into account changes in exchange rates for Canadian or Swiss stock.
(2) These returns exclude dividends, if any. The S&P 500 return is for the Standand and Poors Depository Receipts (ticker symbol SPY) that trade on the American Stock Exchange. For the three dates before 1993, SPY did not yet trade. This analysis interpolates a price for the SPY shares based on the ratio of the S&P 500 index as of the dates in question to its level on 15 September 1993, then multiplying by the price of the SPY shares on that date.
(3) This America West stock became worthless when the company emerged from bankruptcy in 1994.
(4) Data for the renewal of the Atlantic Richfield naming rights.
(5) First Union assumed the naming rights of Core States when it bought Core States.
(6) HSBC recently took over the naming rights from its wholly-owned affiliate, Marine Midland Bank.
(7) Represents 1.2439 WorldCom shares for each share of MCI.
(8) Price unavailable. This analysis assumes $10 for the original value of these shares.
(9) American Airlines inherited the naming rights when it bought the assets of TWA out of bankruptcy. The dome is now the Dome at America's Center.
(10) Pepsi bought Tropicana from Seagram on 25 August 1998, so this analysis uses that date as the starting date.
(*) These have exceptional starting dates. The Air Canada Center opened on 20 February 1999. American Airlines Arena opened on 31 December 1999. Corel started its naming rights deal in March 1996. This analysis uses 1 March 1996 as the starting date. The Molson Centre opened on 16 March 1996. Network Associates started its naming rights deal on 11 October 1998. Safeco Field opened on 15 July 1999. Pepsi bought Tropicana on 25 August 1998.
(**) Not used in the analysis because pre-merger stock prices were unavailable.
Sources: Commercial Alert, and Ballparks.com.
Imagine a mutual fund that spent an equal amount of cash on the stock of each of the companies in the table when the first sports season started under their naming rights agreements. Over time, this Naming Rights Fund would have returned 6.71% on an annual basis, compared to 8.36% for the S&P 500 index shares. (In the real world, the fund would have expenses that ate into the return, but it would also have dividend income that this analysis ignores.) That difference is significant, but fully half of the total gain from the mutal fund comes from Target Stores. If an investor (or a fund manager) forgot to buy Target, much of the profit would be gone.
Of the 53 stocks in the mythical fund, only 19 have performed better over the relevant time periods than the S&P index. In fact, fully 6 of the 53 companies in the fund have stock that is either worthless or nearly so because of bankruptcy. Enron is the most recent bankruptcy, but America West, TWA, Fruit of the Loom, PSINet, and ANC Rental have all filed for Chapter 11 protection. Such filings usually render all common stock worthless.
The companies that signed up for naming rights starting in the 1998 season or later have done particularly poorly. These stocks have lost 10.89% per year, versus a loss of 3.55% per year for the S&P 500 and a gain of 2.00% per year for a hypothetical savings account. Three of 31 companies have gone bankrupt just in that four-year period. Another has lost over 90% of its value in just over a year.
The companies in the mythical fund include a failing electric utility (Edison International), a failed energy trader (Enron), two bankrupt airlines (America West and TWA), three struggling airlines (American, Delta, and United), a struggling financial firm (Conseco) and three struggling technology companies (Compaq, Corel, and 3Com). These firms are notable for the poor financial decisions elsewhere in their businesses. For example, Conseco paid billions of dollars for a maker of trailer-home mortgages. Enron generated phony profits by hiding debts from its balance sheet. Edison lobbied for deregulation of electricity in California, sold its power plants, then got squeezed halfway to oblivion by the new owners of those plants.
Yet the companies in the mythical fund whose stock has soared during the naming rights regime have not bought the rights to new arenas. Two of the worst performers, American Airlines and Compaq, have three sports venues bearing their names. The stock market has not been impressed, at least not favorably. All of the millions of dollars spent on rights fees is money that could have done something constructive for the firms and perhaps even for their workers and customers. Instead, the naming rights deals are often just bad business decisions by companies renowned for muddled thinking.
Some idealistic fans possess some nostalgia for the days when corporate advertisers were a smaller part of sports than they are today. I understand how the imposition of advertising even into the editorial content of the sports section is somehow distasteful. It is gratifying that there is accounting, after long last, for at least the absense of taste.
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