By way of analogy, investing is compared to any number of activities, and sports is certainly one of them. However, the actual behavior of investing in sports-related companies combines these two activities at an entirely different level. Thankfully, there are a number of ways for investors to pair a love of sports and investing.

You can invest directly into shares of one of several publicly traded sports teams, like Manchester United (NYSE:MANU). You can invest in apparel brands like Under Armour (NYSE:UA) (NYSE:UAA). You can also invest in companies like The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) that produce and broadcast sports content. Let's dig more deeply into each of these particular strategies.

Manchester United

Shares of the iconic soccer franchise have lagged the market badly since their 2012 IPO. ManU shares have risen 17% over this period versus a 75% gain for the S&P 500. However, the company could be an interesting buy today.

As should be expected, Manchester United's revenue is tied to the team's on-field performance -- specifically, the number of home games the team is able to host. Thanks to its strong team in 2017, Manchester United's management actually raised the company's guidance for its current fiscal year. The team has already won the English Football League Cup, which helped ManU continue to add new sponsors at a torrent pace. The company inked sponsorship deals with Uber during its most recent quarter.

Over the long term, though, the company's history and massive fan base should help ensure that the company remains competitive on a consistent basis. Its results will always fluctuate to a certain degree with its record, but this is one of the more fun and direct ways to invest in sports out there today.

People watching sports on a TV.

Image Source: Getty.

Under Armour

Shares of apparel upstart Under Armour have been in the penalty box of late, having plummeted over 40% over the past 12 months. The primary trigger that drove this sell-off was a slowdown in Under Armour's growth.

More specifically, the company has missed analysts' expectations for two consecutive quarters, which included the company posting its only per-share loss as a publicly traded company in its most recent quarter. Equally alarming, the company also is expected to post a loss in its June quarter.

Trading at 53-times earnings, Under Armour shares certainly don't look cheap, either. However, with the company expected to return to profitability and grow at somewhat above-average rates, I wonder whether Under Armour shares represent something of a contrarian investment scenario right now. The company clearly enjoys a strong and growing brand presence, which could make the current bearish environment surrounding its shares an interesting entry point for long-term investors.

Disney

Though not all investors know it, the House of Mouse actually owns The Worldwide Leader in Sports, ESPN. In fact, digital-sports giant ESPN typically generates roughly half of Disney's operating profits per annum.

This arrangement has proven to be an incredible boon for Disney and its investors. As cable subscriptions exploded and then ebbed in the face of cord-cutting, live sports programming has enjoyed increasing pricing power. Recently, Disney has used this to offset declines in pay-TV subscriptions at EPSN, which have fallen from 100 million in 2011 to 88 million last year. In other words, ESPN has resorted to squeezing ever-increasing amounts of revenue from a shrinking, albeit still large, subscriber base, which seems like an unsustainable strategy for the long term.

Looking to the future, ESPN faces a number of obstacles as it tries to maintain its global sports empire. The company has faced increased bidding pressure for sports content from aggressive competitors like Fox Sports 1, which is owned by media giant Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc.

Disney has also been stuck trying to navigate the ongoing shift to over-the-top content, while not straining its relationships with its cable distribution partners, which account for the bulk of the network's sales. Disney CEO Bob Iger has been adamant that ESPN will launch its own over-the-top streaming sports service in the not-too-distant future, which he claims will chart the network -- and Disney and its shareholders, by extension -- on a more sustainable path.

As long as Disney successfully navigates this generational transition, the company should remain one of the most dominant players in sports broadcasting.

Andrew Tonner has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Under Armour (A Shares), Under Armour (C Shares), and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.