What Is the Super Bowl Indicator?

The Super Bowl Indicator is a non-scientific, pop culture-based market barometer rooted in the theory that a Super Bowl win for a team from the National Football League’s American Football Conference (AFC) foretells a decline in the stock market the coming year. Conversely, a win for a team from the National Football Conference (NFC), as well as teams from the original National Football League (NFL) before the merger of NFL and American Football League (AFL) in 1966, means the stock market will rise in the coming year.

Leonard Koppett, a sportswriter for The New York Times, first introduced the Super Bowl Indicator in 1978.


Market Indicators: InvestoTrivia

Understanding Super Bowl Indicator Record

The Super Bowl Indicator, at one point in time, boasted a more than 90% success rate in predicting the up-or-down outcome of the S&P 500 the following year. However, the old maxim applies: correlation does not imply causation.

The indicator has one very glaring caveat: It counts the Steelers, a team with an NFL-leading six Super Bowls in all, in the NFC, because that’s where the team got its start back in 1933, as an original NFL franchise. It seemingly doesn’t matter that Pittsburgh won all its Super Bowls as an AFC team. Skeptics note that the Steelers won 27% of the Super Bowls by the time it claimed its third for the 1978 season, the year the index got its start. Some argue Koppett included the caveat about original NFL teams from the AFC counting essentially as NFC teams within the indicator for this reason.

From 2007 to 2017, the Super Bowl Indicator went 50-50 in predicting the up-down performance of the market, the same as a coin flip. It failed to predict a down market in both 2016 and 2017, when the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, both original AFC teams, won Super Bowls. Also of note, in 2008, despite the New York Giants (NFC) winning the Super Bowl, which supposedly indicated a bull market, the stock market suffered one of the largest downturns since the Great Depression.

Pros and Cons of the Super Bowl Indicator

The Super Bowl Indicator is innovative, refreshing and fun sportswriting. Essentially it began as an interesting news column in 1978 that continues to make a new headline at least once a year.

As a means of really predicting the stock market, the Super Bowl Indicator is completely irrelevant: There’s no reason to believe the winner of a football game dictates the performance of the stock market. However, that hasn’t stopped people from talking and writing about it for the past four decades.

S&P 500 Performance Over the Last 10 Super Bowls 

Year Winner League Conference S&P 500 Price Return Prediction
2018 Philadelphia Eagles NFC NFC -6.24% Wrong
2017 New England Patriots AFL AFC 21.83% Wrong
2016 Denver Broncos  AFL AFC 11.96% Wrong
2015 New England Patriots  AFL AFC -0.73% Right
2014 Seattle Seahawks  Expansion team NFC 13.69% Right
2013 Baltimore Ravens  Expansion team AFC 32.39% Wrong
2012 New York Giants  NFL NFC 16.00% Right
2011 Green Bay Packers NFL NFC -1.12% Wrong 
2010  New Orleans Saints NFL NFC 15.06% Right 
2009 Pittsburg Steelers  NFL AFC 26.46% Right
2008 New York Giants  NFL NFC -37.00% Wrong