The Super Bowl Rule: Will Buccaneers’ win signal in fresh surge in US stocks?

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Gamblers who sided with the favoured Kansas City Chiefs will have lost their money as the defending champions lost the fifty-fifth Super Bowl to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their quarterback Tom Brady, the most successful player in the National Football League’s history.

But stock market investors may be pleased to see Brady grab an unprecedented seventh league title, at least if the old ‘Super Bowl’ rule has anything to do with it.

As a result of the merger between two rival leagues in the 1960s, the National Football League is split into two conferences, National (NFC) and American (AFC), whose winners meet in the Super Bowl to decide the overall champion.

The US stock market, as benchmarked by the S&P 500 index, has, on average, performed better in years when the team from the NFC has won and less well when the team from the AFC has claimed the Super Bowl and the players have won their championship rings.

Winning side from Number of wins Average return from S&P 500
NFC 27 10.5%
AFC 27 6.9%

Source: NFL, Refinitiv data. First Super Bowl played in January 1967. Average returns based on calendar year of each game.

This effect has become a little less pronounced over time but it is noticeable nonetheless, so investors who own US shares will be hoping that a little of the shine from the 31-9 victory for the Buccaneers, who hail from the NFC, rubs off on the American stock market this year.

  Average S&P 500 calendar year performance  
  NFC AFC
After 10 years (1967-1976) 14.5% 0.4%
After 20 years (1967-1986) 14.7% 1.8%
After 30 years (1967-1996) 13.5% 1.8%
After 40 years (1967-2006) 13.8% 3.0%
After 50 years (1967-2016) 11.1% 5.1%
After 54 years (1967-2020) 10.5% 6.9%

Source: NFL, Refinitiv data. First Super Bowl played in January 1967. Average returns based on calendar year of each game.

After the early dominance of the National Football League’s (now NFC’s) Green Bay Packers, the 1970s saw the AFC’s Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders rule the roost, with only the NFC’s Dallas Cowboys getting in the way. Yet from an economic perspective, those teams ruled the field after an oil price shock, galloping inflation and soaring interest rates made the 1970s difficult years for investors.

Come the 1980s, the Paul Volcker-led Federal Reserve had begun to tame inflation and cut interest rates, while Reaganomics were helping to drag America out of its post-Vietnam funk. As it happened, the NFC dominated that decade, as Washington, San Francisco and the York Giants bagged multiple Vince Lombardi Trophies.

Dallas and Green Bay established fresh dynasties in the 1990s, when benign inflation, low interest rates, globalisation, the Greenspan put and the rise of technology stocks gave US equities a further boost – although the AFC got its slice of the action as the Denver Broncos, under quarterback John Elway, ended a rotten run of three Super Bowl defeats to win back-to-back titles as the technology bubble inflated in 1998 and 1999.

Super Bowl Year Winner Conference S&P 500 change*
1 1967 Green Bay Packers NFL* 20.1%
2 1968 Green Bay Packers NFL* 7.7%
3 1969 New York Jets AFL** (11.4%)
4 1970 Kansas City Chiefs AFL** 0.1%
5 1971 Baltimore Colts AFC 10.8%
6 1972 Dallas Cowboys NFC 15.6%
7 1973 Miami Dolphins AFC (17.4%)
8 1974 Miami Dolphins AFC (29.7%)
9 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers AFC 31.5%
10 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers AFC 19.1%
11 1977 Oakland Raiders AFC (11.5%)
12 1978 Dallas Cowboys NFC 1.1%
13 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers AFC 12.3%
14 1980 Pittsburgh Steelers AFC 25.8%
15 1981 Oakland Raiders AFC (9.7%)
16 1982 San Francisco 49ers NFC 14.8%
17 1983 Washington Football Team NFC 17.3%
18 1984 Los Angeles Raiders AFC 1.4%
19 1985 San Francisco 49ers NFC 26.3%
20 1986 Chicago Bears NFC 14.6%
21 1987 New York Giants NFC 2.0%
22 1988 Washington Football Team NFC 12.4%
23 1989 San Francisco 49ers NFC 27.3%
24 1990 San Francisco 49ers NFC (6.6%)
25 1991 New York Giants NFC 26.3%
26 1992 Washington Football Team NFC 4.5%
27 1993 Dallas Cowboys NFC 7.1%
28 1994 Dallas Cowboys NFC (1.5%)
29 1995 San Francisco 49ers NFC 34.1%
30 1996 Dallas Cowboys NFC 20.3%
31 1997 Green Bay Packers NFC 31.0%
32 1998 Denver Broncos AFC 26.7%
33 1999 Denver Broncos AFC 19.5%
34 2000 St Louis Rams NFC (10.1%)
35 2001 Baltimore Ravens AFC (13.0%)
36 2002 New England Patriots AFC (23.4%)
37 2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFC 26.4%
38 2004 New England Patriots AFC 9.0%
39 2005 New England Patriots AFC 3.0%
40 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers AFC 13.6%
41 2007 Indianapolis Colts AFC 3.5%
42 2008 New York Giants NFC (38.5%)
43 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers AFC 23.5%
44 2010 New Orleans Saints NFC 12.8%
45 2011 Green Bay Packers NFC 0.0%
46 2012 New York Giants NFC 13.4%
47 2013 Baltimore Ravens AFC 29.6%
48 2014 Seattle Seahawks NFC 11.4%
49 2015 New England Patriots AFC (0.7%)
50 2016 Denver Broncos AFC 9.5%
51 2017 New England Patriots AFC 19.4%
52 2018 Philadelphia Eagles NFC (6.2%)
53 2019 New England Patriots AFC 28.9%
54 2020 Kansas City Chiefs AFC 16.3%
55 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFC  

Source: NFL, Refinitiv data. *Packers’ wins as part of the pre-1967 National Football League classified as National Football Conference (NFC). **Jets’ and Chiefs’ wins as part of the pre-1967 American Football League (AFL) classified as American Football Conference (AFC).

These articles are for information purposes only and are not a personal recommendation or advice.


russmould's picture
Written by:
Russ Mould

Russ Mould has 28 years' experience of the capital markets. He started at Scottish Equitable in 1991 as a fund manager and in 1993 he joined SG Warburg, now part of UBS investment bank, where he worked as equity analyst covering the technology sector for 12 years. Russ joined Shares in November 2005 as technology correspondent and became Editor of the magazine in July 2008. Following the acquisition of Shares' parent company, MSM Media by AJ Bell Group, he was appointed AJ Bell’s Investment Director in summer 2013.