Index Fund for the Sports Fan

SportsETFs

SportsETFs launched a Pro Sports Sponsors Index (FANZ) during the ’17 MLB all-star break, consisting of 66 companies that are official sponsors of the 4 major sports leagues; today that figure is up to 67. Nick Fullerton is the man behind index fund and JohnWallStreet had the chance to connect with him late last week to discuss what it is about pro sports sponsors that makes them attractive from an investment standpoint. 

JWS: Who is investing in this fund?

Nick: We designed this index to provide a general investor, a sports fan and a financial advisor with a product they can intuitively get. This gives them a vehicle to invest in something that they know.

JWS: Can you discuss the methodology behind selecting names for the index?

Nick: It’s rules based product, so we’re not doing any stock selection on our end. You must be an official partner of one of these core four sports leagues. The leagues are essentially doing the vetting and stock picking for us when they enter one of these multi-year agreements. You must be publicly traded on one of the major U.S. or Canadian stock exchanges and the index is equally weighted.

JWS: What is it about corporate sponsors of pro sports leagues that makes them an attractive investment option?

Nick: If you look at the companies that partner with the league, they are typically blue-chip companies that still want to grow (think: DIS, AMZN, BRK.A); so, they’ve got a growth component but, they’ve also got a value component in that they have enough free cash flow to earmark a big chunk of their marketing budget to sports. They’re typically strong cash flow, well-known brands. These are companies that want to market and sell to a loyal, dedicated and passionate community of customers – there is no other group or medium that brings so many people together for these brands.

Howie Long-Short: How was the fund performed?

Nick: The index has been similar to or beating the S&P 500 since our July 11, 2017 launch date. We back-tested the index to 2005 and it beat the S&P 500 by over 130%.

Note: The fund trades under the symbol FANZ on the BATS exchange.

Fan Marino: Investing > Gambling. On Saturday evening, Michigan played Florida State with a spot in the Final 4 on the line. Down 4 and with 10 seconds remaining, Florida State chose not to foul allowing the clock to expire. Coach Leonard Hamilton said after the game that the reason he chose not to foul was because “the game was over”. Despite Hamilton’s belief, it wasn’t over for Florida State (even with 2 FTs, it’s only a 2-possession game) and it certainly wasn’t over for gamblers who had Michigan -4.5. Tough loss.

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Nearly All Money Bet on March Madness is Wagered Illegally

March Madness

Nevada sportsbooks reported taking in a record $429.4 million in bets on March ’17 basketball games (includes NBA), with the casinos winning $41.2 million; but, that record figure was just a small percentage of the total amount wagered on the 2017 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The American Gaming Association (AGA) found that $2.6 billion was illegally wagered on bracket pool entry fees and projects of the $10 billion to be placed on 2018 NCAA tournament games, just 3% ($300 million) will be wagered legally in Nevada sportsbooks; the only state that currently allows betting on individual games. The high percentage of unregulated gambling is among the reasons the AGA supports the full legalization and regulation of sports betting.

Howie Long-Short: The legalization of sports betting is unlikely to move much, if any, of the $2.6 billion estimated to have been wagered in 2017 bracket pools and while it will increase the percentage of bets placed legally on individual games (the bar isn’t high), it won’t be eliminating the black market or off shore options. Why? The high state tax rates being proposed by the individual states and “integrity fees” being pitched by the leagues, will force the casinos to increase the vig on games; making their lines uncompetitive. Serious gamblers aren’t lowering their odds to comply with the law.

Fan Marino: No office pool is better than the one Warren Buffet runs at Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A). It’s free for employees to enter (there are +/- 100,000 expected to participate) and guarantees $1 million/year for life, to anyone who picks the “Sweet 16” correctly. If Creighton wins the championship (he’s Omaha based), he’ll make it $2 million. As a consolation prize, the individual who remains “perfect” the longest receives $100,000. Selecting a perfect bracket is impossible (he once offered $1 billion to anyone who did it), but hitting the “Sweet 16” can be done. In fact, it nearly was; one Berkshire Hathaway employee correctly predicted 15 out of 16 teams last year.

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Adidas’ Impressive 3rd Quarter, Brooks Running Experiences Double-Digit Revenue Growth

Adidas (ADDYY) reported Q3 ’17 sales those rose 9% YOY (to $6.6 billion) and profit that increased 30% YOY (to $610 million), driven by growth in China (+28%) and the North America (+31%). The company experienced double-digit growth within its running and outdoor categories and with its Adidas Originals and Neo fashion lines. CEO Kasper Rorsted reiterated full year sales (+ 17%-19%) and income (+26%-28%) forecasts, which the company raised back in July, and said he is “quite optimistic” 4th quarter growth would outperform previous years.

Howie Long-Short: Performance footwear may not be “in style”, but there seems to be some momentum with sales of running shoes. Adidas’ running category experienced double-digit growth during the 3rd quarter and Brooks Running, which creates sneakers for avid runners, grew its revenue 14% during the same time. The Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary now generates 30% of its revenue from e-commerce sales, has expanded in to China and Brazil (after showing success in Europe, Japan and Canada) and is working to grow brand awareness within a younger demographic (25-35). I like what BRK.A is doing with this niche footwear brand.

Fan Marino: ADDYY has released a highly personalized new app that includes a custom news feed, chatbot (to answer questions) and full online store; with Joseph Godsey, global head of digital commerce saying the personalized experience is “meaningful enough” to bring consumers back. Perhaps it is, e-commerce sales grew 39% during the quarter. It had better be if the company is to hit its goal of $4 billion euros in e-commerce sales by 2020; the company only reached $1 billion in online sales in 2016.

Adidas reports strong growth in North America, China

Editor Note: The summary for this story was co-written by our friends at The Water Coolest. Check out TheWaterCoolest.com for the latest market news and professional advice.

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RUSSELL ATHLETIC LEAVING UNIFORM BUSINESS TO FOCUS ON HERITAGE, CORPORATE AND PROMOTIONAL MARKETS

Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK.A) Russell Athletic has decided to exit the team uniform business (primarily HS and youth leagues) and turn its focus towards a “longer-term, more-healthier place” in consumer retail. A new line of “heritage” styled lifestyle and streetwear clothing, to be launched at Barney’s before to being sold at retailers like Urban Outfitters, will be a part of the company rebrand. A partnership with S&S Activewear (3rd largest U.S. distributor) provides the company with access to previously unreachable corporate and promotional business. Russell plans to maintain its team channel; selling non-uniform items and using S&S Activewear to service those sales.

Howie Long-Short: There is certainly some cache surrounding the “heritage” market, with companies like Champion (HBI), Fila USA (KRX: 081660) and Calvin Klein (PVH) experiencing recent resurgences. HBI reported Champion Q2 ’17 revenues were up 7%, with Fila USA and Calvin Klein up 11.5% ($71.3 million) and 8% ($786 million) respectively, over last year’s figures. It’s been 20 years since Russell Athletic has been relevant, but if you wait long enough, everything comes back into style.

Fan Marino: For those too young to remember, Russell was the largest marketer and manufacturer of athletic apparel in to the early 1990s; when Nike (NKE), Adidas (ADDYY) and Under Armour (UAA) began to pump big dollars into D-1 athletic contracts. Just 2 programs remain with the once dominant brand, Georgia Tech and Southern Miss, both of which have contracts ending with the company in 2018. There has been no word on if their new suppliers will offer cut-off jerseys, the signature look from Russell’s heyday.

Russell Looks To Build On Retail Momentum

GEORGIA TECH ATHLETICS LEAVING RUSSELL ATHLETIC; SIGNS 6 YEAR APPAREL DEAL WITH ADIDAS

Georgia Tech University has announced a 6-year deal that will make Adidas (ADDYY) the official apparel provider for 17 GT varsity sports. The partnership, which goes into effect on July 1, 2018, will replace the school’s existing deal with Russell Athletic (BRK.A). The mutually beneficial agreement provides Adidas with a presence in the Atlanta market, while providing GT with a boost in revenue and a significant improvement in apparel quality.

Georgia Tech to exchange Russell Athletic gear for Adidas starting in 2018

Howie Long-Short: When GT first signed on with Russell Athletic in 1992, sporting goods companies like Russell (BRK.A), Rawlings (NWL), Wilson (HEL: AMEAS) controlled the uniform market. 25 years later fashion and apparel retailers (NKE, ADDYY, UAA) dominate the space. Times have changed!

Fan Marino: You hear a lot of talk that GT’s relationship with Russell Athletic has damaged their recruiting efforts. I’m not buying that. Football struggles to recruit because they run a version of the wishbone offense that hasn’t been popular since the 1980s. Basketball can recruit. Josh Pastner has a 5 star, Nassir Little, on campus this weekend.