I am a firm believer that the greatest success in investing comes from sticking with a long-term buy and hold approach. Legendary investors like Warren Buffet have had tremendous success utilizing this strategy, and I am happy to report that it has worked great for me over the years as well.

However, there is more to this approach than just buying stock in a company and holding it for the long term. You have to pick the right high-quality companies and make sure they have viable growth stories capable of extending well into the future.

My big winners
Here are the two great companies with which I've had the most long-term success, along with the reasoning behind why I initially bought them and hold them in my portfolio to this day.

MasterCard (NYSE:MA) and Under Armour (NYSE:UA) are both companies that I purchased stock in over four years ago. As it turns out, despite being in very different industries the two companies have a lot in common, as many buy-and-hold candidates typically do.


Source: Company Website 

Growth stories
As recently as late 2012, MasterCard Chief Executive Officer Ajay Banga estimated that a staggering 85% of consumer transactions are still completed via cash and check. Even in domestic markets, only approximately 50% of transactions take place electronically. The growth potential for MasterCard is still huge, and this is a perfect example of a long-term growth story suitable for buy and hold investors. 

The growth stories that drive success for both companies were and still are very easy to understand. As a leader in payments solutions, MasterCard continues to benefit from the global consumer's steady transition away from cash toward credit, debit, and various electronic forms of payment. Since the majority of the world still uses cash as a primary form of payment, the growth of payments-solutions leaders like MasterCard seems almost assured.


Source: Company Facebook Profile 

On the other hand, Under Armour continues to remain a great long-term buy and hold pick thanks to the immense strength and appeal of its brand. While the company began as a niche, male-centric apparel provider, its management has steadily increased the Under Armour brand's diversity. The company's audience now includes a healthy mix of male and female, youth and adult, athletes and casual folks.

The most important aspect of Under Armour's growth story is that as the company has captured new audiences, its brand power has never diminished. The brand's universal appeal means the company can continue to expand into new product categories and geographic markets. In particular, the international growth opportunities remain large for Under Armour, as only approximately 8% of the company's total revenue currently derives from non-domestic markets. 

Impressive growth
Not surprisingly, both MasterCard and Under Armour's powerful growth stories have transitioned to their top and bottom lines. The following is a breakdown of both companies' revenue and earnings-per-share growth projections in 2014: 

CompanyRevenue Growth 2014EPS Growth 2014
MasterCard 11.5% 16.9%
Under Armour 23.7% 23.3%

Bottom line
When it comes to the buy and hold approach the most important decision is an investor's first one, deciding on the right company. In this regard, an easy-to-understand but powerful growth story is my personal preference, not to mention the choice of seasoned professionals like Warren Buffet.

A powerful growth story should also be directly reflected in a company's forward-looking growth projections. When the story and growth are aligned, buying and holding for the long-term can be an incredibly rewarding approach to investing, as it has been for me with MasterCard and Under Armour.

Philip Saglimbeni owns shares of MasterCard and Under Armour. The Motley Fool recommends MasterCard and Under Armour. The Motley Fool owns shares of MasterCard and Under Armour. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.