By Jake Mann
The sudden rise of the New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin has been one of the most remarkable stories of 2012. The 6'3", 200 lb. point guard has been the world's most iconic basketball star since being promoted to start four weeks ago for an underachieving Knicks squad that had started the NBA season at a 7-15 mark. Since recording 25 points against the New Jersey Nets on February 4th, Lin has led his team to a 9-3 record, including a theatrical 7-game win streak. Most importantly, the Knickerbockers have risen to 2nd place in the division standings, breathing a spark into the city of New York. In the process, puns for the Harvard grad's rise to fame have been creative to say the least. Most call it "Linsanity", but the expressions "Lincredible", "Linderella Story", "Lintelligence", and "All He Does Is Lin, Lin, Lin" have been (over)used by talking heads throughout the media world.
Well, Wall Street has taken notice, and "Linsanity" has had an impact on the a few stocks in particular.
Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) - No, this is not the salty flavoring that comes on your fast food, it is the company that owns the Knicks, their arena, and the team's cable network. Since the emergence of Jeremy Lin, MSG stock has risen 16 percent, and recently hit an all-time high of $33.43 a share. While some say this is a "Linsanity"-induced bubble, there is reason to believe that Lin can have long-lasting effects. Just look at the main profit-generating activities of the company - ticket sales, merchandise sales, and TV advertising - all of which have been exploding in recent weeks.
The average price of a ticket at Madison Square Garden has risen from $80 to over $100, online merchandise sales have increased 3,000 fold, and TV ratings of MSG Network have jumped almost 70 percent. If these three areas of the company's business continue to remain elevated, MSG's earnings will increase over the coming months, and its stock price should move higher. It makes sense - the biggest market in the NBA finally has an underdog-turned-superstar that can lead its beloved team to the playoffs and fans are taking notice.
Nike, Inc. (NKE) - Yes, the sportswear company's stock has risen almost 6 percent over the last month, and no, this is not completely due to Jeremy Lin, though the point guard should have a positive effect on shares of NIKE in the future. After his marketing potential became apparent, the company signed Lin to a significant multi-year contract, though the exact terms of the deal have not been announced. This move makes sense, as the footwear giant is planning to release a Jeremy Lin shoe to the American and Asian markets. Lin's rich cultural heritage - he is a dual-citizen of Taiwan and the United States - will provide Nike with more than enough buyers willing to shell out $100-plus to buy the kicks.
Adidas Group (ADDYY.PK) - An obvious rival to Nike, Adidas will also benefit from the hype because it is the official provider of NBA jerseys in the United States and China. In the past month, sales of jerseys donning the names "Lin" and "Linsanity" have skyrocketed. Between February 4th and 12th, the jersey was ranked number 1 in total sales, ahead of the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose. During this same time, the Knicks were also the number 1 team in terms of total jersey sales. These sales increases were the icing on Adidas's proverbial cake, as Knicks merchandise sales is already up 200 percent in the past year. Undoubtedly, it benefits shares of Adidas stock that sales in the NBA's largest market have such an upward momentum.
Unilever N.V. (UN) - Okay, this one is a bit of a stretch, but it is worth mentioning. Unilever owns the ice cream company Ben & Jerry's, which has recently released a flavor called "Taste The Lin-Sanity." This contains a delightful mix of vanilla frozen yogurt, honey swirls, and waffle cone pieces that is only available at the Harvard Square location. Proceeds from sales will be given to local non-profits in the Cambridge area, so it is obvious that the product will not affect the overall sales numbers of Ben & Jerry's. It is possible that investors could get caught up in the "Linsanity" and want to own shares of Unilever, but highly, highly unlikely. If shares of UN do receive a boost attributable to the ice cream, all theories of stock market rationality should be thrown out the window.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.