After 149 days of labor disputes and nearly 500 games missed, the NBA season is back on track. Fans cheered the Christmas start, whilst companies were finally able to begin their 2011-2012 NBA advertising campaigns. During the 2010-2011 NBA season, the top 25 advertisers spent over $400 million on solely NBA-related advertising. True, October, November and most of December have already been lost, but that shouldn’t discourage advertisers too much, as most of their spending is heavily back-loaded; focusing on the higher ratings that come from the All-Star Game and the playoffs.
Advertisers like the NBA -- and sports in general, for that matter -- for their inherent stickiness. Sports fans are unlikely to DVR the game and risk missing the live action of their favorite teams. To be sure, the companies that advertise through the NBA are more than diversified, so the fate of an NBA season wasn’t going to affect their profits too much anyway. But then again, advertisements must be profitable (why else use them?) and thus some of this extra revenue is already baked in to forecasts. Let’s take a look at some of the most advertising-friendly companies for the NBA.
YUM Brands (YUM) – This Kentucky-based fast food conglomerate operates more than 36,000 restaurants under the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell names. Last year YUM spent about $29 million on NBA advertising alone, the second highest amount spent by any NBA marketer, with most of that coming from Taco Bell. YUM Brands was highlighted in a recent article as a company that had the potential to provide both income and growth for an investor. On the income side, YUM has not only paid but also increased payouts for the last 8 years, while the payout ratio has remained below 50%. The current yield, standing at 1.9%, might be a bit low for some but if YUM can become the next McDonald's investors will be rewarded heartily.
McDonald’s (MCD) – Speaking of McDonald’s, the company spent $16 million on NBA advertising last year. To be sure, that’s a drop of a drop in the bucket of this $100 billion hamburger flipper, for which 80% of restaurants are independently owned and operated. MCD is more of a high-margin landlord than it is a restaurateur. This system has proven to work well, as McDonald’s currently hovers around its all-time high. Additionally, investors have been rewarded beyond price appreciation as dividend payouts have increased for 35 straight years.
Perhaps even more impressive is the near 27% average yearly dividend grow rate MCD has been able to sustain over the last decade. More recent announcements have been lower, but still in the double digits. With a payout ratio near 50% and a heavy emphasis on shareholder value, investors would do well to grab a piece of this happy meal at the right price.
Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) – What goes best with a greasy burger and live NBA action? Anheuser-Busch InBev says "this Bud’s for you." Last year BUD spent over $10 million on strictly NBA advertising, but this Belgium-based beverage brewer is poised to add a little more foam to the top with its recent renewal of its NBA partnership. For the American investor using ADRs, dividends are only paid once a year and are subject to exchange-rate fluctuations. However, analysts are looking for the dividend to grow at a rate greater than 20% for at least the next 2 years. Brokers like the stock as well, as 8 brokers come to a collective 1-year target upside of about 15%.
Molson Coors Brewing Company (TAP) – This Colorado-based beverage brewer sells familiar beers under the Coors, Miller, Keystone and Milwaukee’s Best names, among many others. Coors Light made up the bulk of TAP’s NBA advertising last year, spending over $11 million alone. As of late TAP has made a strong effort to come onto the dividend scene, having increased its payouts for the last 4 years.
With a current yield right around 2.9% and a price to earnings ratio near 13, TAP looks reasonable at the moment. Molson Coors has a payout ratio under 40%, a strong following and a price to book ratio of 0.96, which appears to suggest future sustainability. As the company asserts: “[We are] a leading global brewer delivering extraordinary brands that delight the world’s beer drinkers.”
PepsiCo (PEP) – Along with its Partnership Renewal with BUD, the National Basketball Association also announced that it would continue its relationship with Gatorade, a PepsiCo Brand. True, Gatorade is only one of PepsiCo’s 19 different billion dollar brands; however, PEP did spend over $13 million on NBA advertising last year. In general, sugary drinks are on the decline which makes it exceedingly important for PEP to outpace Coca-Cola (KO) in other beverage areas such as sport drinks and juices. Although, PEP does make a ton of money by idling at beverage maker number two, while its snack and food businesses act as small shelf monopolies.
On the dividend scene, PEP is anything but trivial, having not only paid but also increased its payout for the last 39 years. With a current yield around 3.1% and a payout ratio under 52%, making it to the celebratory 40th consecutive dividend increase looks promising. The most recent payout has already traded Ex-Dividend and is payable on January 3. One more payment at the current $0.515 a quarter should be made in March, while a 5-10% increase announcement is expected in early May. For next year that could represent a yield on cost around 3.3%, while keeping a 10% dividend growth rate for the next decade would create a YOC over 8%.
Coca-Cola (KO) – This Atlanta-based soft-drink maker announced that it was going to expand its global marketing partnership with the NBA back in February. The Sprite brand has taken the lead in this endeavor by sponsoring a variety NBA events including the “Sprite Slam Dunk Contest” and the “Sprite Slam Dunk Show Down” which puts the best professional and amateur dunkers against one another respectively. Much like PepsiCo’s Gatorade, Sprite is only one of Coca-Cola’s 14 different billion dollar brands. However, this partnership is important for the Sprite name as 2011 was the first year that this particular brand took the lead in Coca-Cola’s 25 year history of partnering with the NBA.
The most recent dividend was paid two Thursdays ago. But investors shouldn’t have to wait too long for the next one, as KO looks to announce its 50th consecutive dividend increase on the third Thursday of February as the company has done for at least the last 14 years. Coca-Cola has been increasing dividends by a 10-year average growth rate of about 10%, suggesting the current 2.7% yield could turn into a yield on cost of 7% in the next decade. KO seems like an easy pick for a top-tier holding, but if you have any concerns about sustainability just look to its 35% payout ratio and 125 years in business; not to mention the 1.7 billion servings that will be enjoyed today.
Disclosure: I am long PEP, KO.