Top 7 Ways to Invest in Football

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Contributor, Benzinga
December 21, 2023

Baseball may be considered America’s national pastime, but football is clearly the sport Americans devote the most attention to nowadays. Whether it's college or pro, football is about to dominate the television in most American households until the beginning of February, making football investing a wise choice for many.

And with football comes America’s second national pastime — money. The amount of money poured into football each year is enormous, whether it's through television rights deals, advertising campaigns, team revenues or just the eye-bulging amounts that people wager on games each week. And while leagues and sports franchises in America aren’t usually publicly traded like some European soccer clubs, you can find ways to invest in a game if you look behind the scenes.

7 Ways to Invest in Football in 2023

Investing in football doesn’t mean buying shares of a sports team; they’re all privately owned and don’t come on the market very often anyway. Yes, the Green Bay Packers are technically publicly owned by issuing shares to season ticket holders, but these have no cash value and you won’t get any say in who the football team selects in the draft, no matter how hard you yell. Sorry Packers fans, but it can still be something of a nostalgic investment that you might enjoy.

Sports TV and radio will ask you if you’re buying “stock” in everything from Cooper Kupp to CJ Stroud and the Houston Texans, George Pickens, Baker Mayfield, Caleb Williams, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams or some other sports team, but that doesn’t offer a return on your investment. That’s merely a thought experiment.

You can invest in football by looking at the companies on the game's periphery. Players need uniforms, fans need food and beverages and sports books need an equal amount of money to be bet on both sides of a point spread — that’s a lot of money changing hands. Here are a few ways to invest in football without owning a franchise.

1. Sports Betting Companies

More money is wagered on football than any other sport in America, and those bets are becoming legal in more states over time. Sports betting used to be strictly done in Vegas casinos, but now online sports books and a renewed regulatory openness toward gambling have made football betting easier than ever.

Sports betting stocks are a good way to go, but you still need to do your research. DraftKings Inc. (NASDAQ: DKNG) is one of the more prominent faces of publicly-traded sports books, and you’ll see plenty of its commercials over the next few months. But DraftKings has struggled to turn a profit and still devotes much of its capital to customer acquisition costs. FanDuel is the largest online competitor, but it is privately owned.However, companies that own physical casinos like Caesars Entertainment Inc. (NASDAQ: CZR) and Penn Entertainment Inc. (NASDAQ: PENN) also have developed online sports books and have begun taking bets in several states. This is an area to pay attention to as more states relax their laws on gambling. A lot of market share remains locked behind regulatory doors — which company will wind up taking the most when those are unlocked? It's worth monitoring the stock exchange for any notable movements in their share price.

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2. Football Partner and Sponsorship Companies

The battle for football-viewing eyeballs is never-ending at both the college and pro levels. Each college bowl game has a company attached to it, each team has an official beer or carmaker, and even individual plays get their own segment with a creative sponsorship nickname.

Football partners and sponsorship companies change, so pay attention to rumblings when new deals are discussed. Keep an eye on who’s making the uniforms, who is sponsoring the beer and hot wings, and which companies are shelling out big dollars for commercials, partnerships, or other advertisements. If there’s a rumor that Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) will be taking over team uniform production from Under Armour Inc. (NYSE: UA), that might be something worth investing in. This can also work in reverse — Coinbase Global Inc.’s (NASDAQ: COIN) bizarre QR code commercial during the 2022 Super Bowl didn’t do any favors for a company whose stock price was already under pressure.

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3. Media Rights Deals

Beer and apparel companies aren’t the only ones who shell out big bucks for football partnerships. The rights to air college and pro leagues are also hotly contested, and the best games frequently appear on new channels.

For example, NBC, whose parent company is Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA), has long owned the rights to the NFL’s premier weekly matchup on Sunday Night Football. ESPN, owned by Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), has the lesser Monday Night Football, and Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) recently acquired Thursday Night Football for Amazon Prime Video. Fox Corp. (NASDAQ: FOX) and Paramount Global (NASDAQ: PARA) show games all day on Sunday afternoons through Fox and CBS respectively. Got all that down? Good, because it will probably change again next year. Such changes can cause fluctuations in the football related stock market.

Sponsorships are always changing, but so are the media rights deals that the NFL and individual college conferences sign with networks to broadcast games. Staying on top of media rights agreements is a good way to find public companies that profit from football.

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4. Sports Betting / Fantasy Football

Like day traders, most sports bettors will lose more than they win. But those who find an edge can earn a profit, whether it’s through betting on NFL or college games directly or playing for money through fantasy football.

There are three ways to play fantasy football:

  • Redraft Leagues: League members draft new teams every season.
  • Dynasty or Keeper Leagues: Members retain the same team or a few certain players each year.
  • Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS): Members select new teams every day that games take place.

Fantasy leagues can often go on for years, but DFS has grown in popularity lately because it's a one-day or one-week league where new entries can be made as often as you want. But much like betting, it takes luck and skill to win consistently.

Sports betting companies usually make more money than they lose when offering odds. The goal for oddsmakers is to get equal action on both sides so the book profits off the rake, which is the small percentage of cash withheld on a winning bet. Some skilled bettors can beat these odds with consistency, but you need to hit more than 50% of the time just to break even.For example, a football game spread will look like this: Philadelphia Eagles -4 (-110) at Detroit Lions +4 (-110). The first number is the spread, or the number of points the favored team needs to win by to win the bet. The second number is the rake or juice — the amount you need to bet to win $100. In this case, to win $100, you need to bet $110. The book keeps your $110 if you lose and pays you $100 if you win. Because of this rake on profits, sports bettors must win at least 53% of the time to earn a profit on their betting endeavors.

5. Buying and Selling Football Tickets

NFL tickets are often the most expensive of the major sports in America because each team only gets eight home games per season. Since there are so few games to attend, these tickets become hot commodities, especially if the team is in contention for a championship. The waiting list for season tickets at premier franchises often spans decades.

But thanks to ticket brokers like StubHub and SeatGeek, fans can find arbitrage opportunities to buy and sell tickets for profit (providing they earn enough to overcome the fees these brokers charge). For example, an under-the-radar team with a strong fanbase might not have overly expensive tickets if expectations are low. If you suspect that particular team to be a darkhorse contender, buying low-priced tickets before the season and reselling them two months later if the team starts 5-0 could be a profitable endeavor.

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6. NFL All Day / Trading Cards

Sports trading cards are nearly as old as the games themselves. Baseball cards tend to get the most attention since its the oldest of the major sports and cards from over 100 years ago can still be found in good condition. In fact, a rare Mickey Mantle card recently set a record by selling for $12 million.Football cards don’t often pull those kinds of numbers, but collectors still pay top dollar for rare and valuable NFL cards, especially for older players like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Additionally, Dapper Labs, the company behind NBA TopShot, launched its football NFT platform called NFL All Day last year. While most of these NFTs are only worth a few dollars, rare ones have sold for more than $40,000 (like this 10-mint Brett Favre NFT).

7. Invest in NFL Teams

Yes, Benzinga understands that few of its readers possess the independent wealth required to take a minority ownership stake in an NFL team, which is a common position for many of the well-to-do class to take. So, for accredited investors who may want to take a tiny ownership stake in an NFL franchise, you can reach out to the ownership group to learn what’s required.

For everyone else working a 9-5 or with just a few investments to their name, there is an NFL team that is publicly held—The Green Bay Packers. However, as mentioned previously, there have only been a few stock sales in the team’s history. If you’re interested, you can check out the Packers website to learn when the next stock sale might occur. You will not earn a dividend on the initial investment, but supporting the last true “franchise” in pro sports that hasn’t been overrun by billion-dollar takeovers may appeal to you.

Who Should Invest in Football?

Football isn’t an asset class like stocks or bonds, so investing in the sport should be approached differently. Football is big business, but investing in the actual teams or leagues isn’t something open to unaccredited investors. To invest in football, you need to find companies or products that benefit from football’s popularity.

Investing in football should be left to those who understand how the leagues work. Knowing plays and personnel might help for sports betting or card collecting, but the business aspect is even more important if looking for football-adjacent public companies.

Football Fans

Sports talk radio stations aren’t overflowing with beacons of knowledge, but few people know the ins and outs of the leagues better than the dedicated fans. If you’re a big fan with an investing background, you can probably think of more profitable avenues than traditional investors., especially if you’re a local or a fan of the aforementioned Packers.

Risk-Tolerant Investors

Football fans are fickle, and investments like buying and selling game tickets can easily backfire. Investing in football sponsors takes a different kind of investing acumen as well since financial media doesn’t usually cover football-specific investment ideas. You'll need to tolerate some uncertainty to use football as an asset class.

Alternative Investors

Sports betting and card collecting might not be traditional investments, but money can be made if they’re done properly. Sports betting requires a system with specific parameters regarding bet size and when to place a wager. And card collectors need to have a keen eye and good foresight into which players will and won’t succeed. If alternative asset classes are your thing, these are two avenues to explore.

Considerations for Sports Investors

You’ll need a risk appetite to invest in football, or any sport for that matter, because of the mercurial relationships that permeate the leagues. Here are a few factors to consider that can throw investment plans off balance.

Labor Agreements

The NFL nearly lost a season in 2012 due to a lockout, and labor negotiations are always contentious between the owners and the players union. Always know the length of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement and be on the lookout for any issues that could cause a potential work stoppage. If games aren’t played, nobody makes money.

College vs. Pro Football

College and pro football somewhat overlap in fanbases and business dealings, but they also influence different regions and don’t always share the same sponsors. Be sure your investment ideas take into account whether college or professional football is the catalyst.

Litigation and Injuries

Football is the most popular sport in the United States, but it’s not without its detractors. It’s common knowledge that playing football puts a player at high risk for concussions, and repeated concussive blows can have deleterious effects on the human brain. Former players have accused the NFL of misleading them regarding concussions, and the documentary League of Denial severely damaged the league’s reputation. The NFL is often battling litigation from former injured players, and regulators have threatened to get involved on more than one occasion over business practices and potential antitrust violations.

Assessing Your Risk Factors

Investors can explore investment opportunities in the football industry by looking at companies involved in various aspects of the sport. However, they must consider risks such as labor agreements, college vs professional football, and litigation and injury concerns. Careful research and understanding of the business aspect are important for successful investments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

Is football a good investment?

A

Football can be a good investment, but only if you understand both the play on the field and the business that occurs off it. Like any investment, you’ll need a blueprint, capital and parameters on when to buy and sell. Whether it’s investing in public companies that do business with football or developing card-collecting or ticket-selling strategies, have a plan and an exit mapped out should your investment turn against you.

 

Q

Can you invest in sports teams?

A

You can’t invest directly in NFL or college football teams as an everyday investor, only through their sponsorship companies, sports betting, card collecting or ticket selling. Some European soccer clubs like Manchester United are actually publicly traded on American stock exchanges (look for MANU on the NYSE), but no American football teams offer valuable public shares.

Q

Why Should You Invest in the Football Industry?

A

Investing in the football industry is recommended because of its profitability and worldwide popularity. It offers various revenue streams and has shown consistent growth in market value, making it a lucrative investment opportunity. Additionally, investing in football allows for supporting and contributing to its cultural significance.

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