The NBA Finals and American Airlines - What's in a Name? (AMR)

| About: American Airlines (AAL)

American Airlines (AMR) finds itself in the historically unique position of owning naming rights for both arenas that will showcase the NBA finals, which begin Thursday when the Miami Heat visit the Dallas Mavericks in the American Airlines Center. Dallas will travel to Miami for Game 3 to play in American Airlines Arena.

USAToday ran an intriguing story Tuesday regarding the relationship between corporations' sports arena naming-rights deals and their stock prices. According to the report, stock prices "on average rise about 1.7% when [their companies] sign stadium deals." Moreover, "sponsors of teams that win 65% of their games see their shares rise almost twice as much as those that support teams that only win 35%."

The article, which was the top story on USAToday's "Money" page, then insinuates that the extra publicity from the NBA Finals could be expected to affect stock price in the week leading up to the games and during the series itself:

American hasn't been able to share the glory yet. Shares of its parent company, AMR, closed at $23.38 on Monday, down 4.7%.

But the airline's [spokesman Tim] Wagner is confident that American will get some extra brand mileage from the finals. Dallas and Miami "are big hubs for us, and are essential to our financial success," he says.

We thought their portrayal of the stock market impact of stadium names -- which can cost a company around $6 to $12 million a year -- seemed a little dramatic, particularly their proposition that the extra attention brought about by a championship series could affect stock prices almost immediately.

We decided to take a look back at the major sports championship events that were hosted in corporate-sponsored arenas and see if any noticeable trends emerged with the movement of the corporations' stock price. The results showed a tendency toward mild gains that does nothing more than indicate that USAToday might have been reaching a bit, even if the name "American Airlines" does grace the facade of both arenas. (Note that while there are some very large gains and declines, they are more likely attributable to market trends at those times.)

So, needless to say, we won't be over-loading on AMR shares in anticipation of Dirk Nowitzki and Shaquille O'Neal dribbling on American Airlines' logo for seven games.