How to trade the All-Star Game

Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals
Getty Images
Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals

Major League Baseball hits its mid-season break this week and with that comes the ever-popular All-Star game on Tuesday.

Sponsors of the game and of MLB, in general, pay millions to have their brands before the TV audience and even on the stadium where the games are played. Tuesday's game will be played in Great American Ball Park, named for an insurance company based in Cincinnati.

Some traders and academics speculate that increased exposure around sporting events can encourage retail investors to scoop up shares in the sponsor companies, or sports-connected companies in general. For at least two sponsors, history shows that relationship paying off by driving up stock value around the game.

PepsiCo and Nike, both MLB sponsors for more than a decade, have traded positive over eight of the past 10 All-Star games, according to an analysis by Kensho, a qualitative tool used by hedge funds. Kensho looked at buying shares the day of the All-Star game and selling the following day since 2005.


Ten official MLB sponsors will be advertising during this year's game: Anheuser-Busch, Chevrolet, Draft Kings, Esurance, Gatorade, MasterCard, Maytag, Pepsi, Proctor & Gamble and T-Mobile, which will be the first-ever presenting sponsor of the game on Fox, according to Broadcasting & Cable.

Nike has been an official league licensee since 2005 and has seen a median return of 0.5 percent on its stock during the time studied. The companies in April renewed an agreement whereby Nike is one of the few apparel brands allowed to show its logo on baseball players' uniforms, the famous Swoosh above the neckline.

Big 5 Sporting Goods, a retailer across the West, saw a median return of 1.71 percent over the period studied, the highest of the stocks included. But don't rush to grab shares in any old sports retailer—Dick's Sporting Goods and Hibbett Sports saw negative median returns, though both traded positive on four out of the 10 years.

Pepsi, too, has been an official sponsor of MLB for more than a decade. The soda and snack-foods brand has seen median returns of 0.37 percent over the period, compared with the S&P 500's 0.29 percent return.

Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals' star outfielder, is starting for the National League, and is a spokesman for Pepsi brand Gatorade, which of course gets a lot of exposure during any sporting event.

Sharpe increase

Pepsi shares had a strong Sharpe ratio of 3.25, according to Kensho's analysis, a metric of risk-adjusted returns. A high Sharpe ratio suggests statistically high returns relative to the risk taken on.

As many would argue, there's nothing that goes with baseball like beer. Shares in Molson Coors Brewing Company traded higher on seven of the 10 years studied, with an average return of 0.92 percent. Coors also saw a Sharpe ratio of 3.5, the highest of the stocks in the study. Coors is not an official sponsor of MLB, but held a 14.5 percent stake in the Colorado Rockies until selling in 2013. The Rockies still play in Coors Field in Denver.


The only company with a negative Sharpe ratio in the study was Hibbett Sports, a chain of retail sporting-good stores based in Birmingham, Alabama. Hibbett's Sharpe ratio of minus 0.59 indicates a risk-free benchmark performed better in the given period.

It might not even be necessary to pick a particular stock: The market overall seems to do well during the All-Star Game. The S&P 500 itself was up seven out of the 10 years, with an average return of 0.6 percent.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal, parent of CNBC, is a minority investor in Kensho.

CORRECTION: The Great American Ball Park is named after an insurance company based in Cincinnati.

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