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2018 NFL Season Kicks Off: Which Stocks Will Gain?


On Sep 6, the 99th season of the National Football League (NFL) started with a match between last year’s Super Bowl LII champion Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons. This five-month long sporting event is expected to garner significant attention from Americans.

This year has been a busy one for sport enthusiasts with the likes of the 21st FIFA World Cup held in Russia and XXIII Olympic Winter Games held in South Korea. However, for Americans the NFL season holds a special place. Moreover, companies like Nike Inc. NKE and YUM! Brands, Inc’s YUM Pizza Hut also have ample reasons to look forward to this mega sporting event.

NFL Gains as Nike-Kaepernick Saga Cools Off

As rightly pointed out by Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, in his newly released book, “Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times,” NFL is in troubled waters. The tournament is facing a number of setbacks, including decline in television ratings and President Trump’s displeasure over players like Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racial bias in the field.

Way back on a pre-season match on Aug 16, 2016, Colin Kaepernick, star player for San Francisco 49ers preferred to remain seated during the American national anthem. Kaepernick said that he will sit instead of showing “pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." Two years later, Nike signed this now former NFL player in its “Just Do It” campaign.

President Trump said that Nike sent a 'terrible message' with this advertisement. Nike witnessed an initial burn following this development, but later Nike’s Kaepernick marketing strategy actually helped the company. The athletic footwear company’s online sales jumped 31% from Sep 3 (Labor Day) to Sep 11, higher than 2017’s 17% gain during the same period, per a digital commerce research firm, Edison Trends.

Pizza Hut Scores NFL Sponsorship

The NFL and Papa John's International, Inc. PZZA officially ended their sponsorship deal. This in turn, paved the way for Pizza Hut, a restaurant chain of YUM! Brands, to become the official pizza sponsor of the NFL for the first time.

The pizza delivery company is definitely capitalizing on this opportunity and has added a new feature to its app, known as Game Plan. Using this service, customers will get a notification three hours before kickoff on whether they want their pizza to be delivered before the game starts or at some point during halftime.

Pizza Hut has also roped in big players like Juju Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers for promotions. Marianne Radley, chief brand officer of Pizza Hut, while talking about the company’s reward program said that if customers are not happy “with any of the competitors, come join our rewards program."

Apart from Nike and Pizza Hut, this is definitely a big opportunity for NFL’s other sponsors, sporting goods retailer, Dick's Sporting Goods, Inc. DKS and sports footwear and apparel company, Under Armour, Inc. UAA. Other sponsors like Pepsico, Inc. PEP, Comcast Corporation CMCSA and The Walt Disney Company DIS, are also expected to gain.

Dick's, Under Armour and Comcast have a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), while, Pepsico holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.


Undoubtedly, the NFL is expected gain significantly on the back of a wide audience base. One of biggest sponsors, Nike, faced flak for its Kaepernick “Just Do It” campaign, but has experienced significant growth in its online sales following this marketing strategy. Additionally, some of its new and old sponsors are also on the move to make strong gains.

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