This article was last published April 19, 2016 and updated September 30, 2016.
As any sport fan knows, athletics in America, nay, the world, is big business. Want to know what the best stocks in the sports industry are?
The outlook for the business of sports is, unsurprisingly, very strong. However, as with all investing, choosing the best sports stocks is not easy. Trends are often unpredictable, and identifying the top sports stocks poised to grow in the years ahead is tricky. The massive size of the industry itself makes the process daunting, with options ranging from retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods to publicly traded owner of the New York Ranges Madison Square Garden. Fortunately, the Motley Fool is here to break down and analyze the best bets in the business of sports. Read on to learn the names of the best sports stocks to buy now.
Sports is a huge business and investment opportunity. In fact, research and consulting company A.T. Kearney estimates the size of the global sports industry to be as much as $700 billion dollars. The companies winning in this massive global market -- and more importantly, those that are likely to win in the years ahead -- have the ability to make their shareholders a fortune. Read on to see why Nike (NYSE:NKE), Under Amour (NYSE:UAA), and Disney (NYSE:DIS) stand ready to thrill both sports fans and shareholders for many years to come.
The big hitter
It would be impossible to make a list of the top stocks for sports fans without mentioning the big, nasty, 800-pound gorilla of the sports apparel universe, and that of course is Nike.
Nike's renowned brand and innovative culture are trusted by athletes and their millions of fans. The company is also well-positioned to benefit from the emerging global middle class, as more and more people around the world strive to live healthier and more active lives.
This marketing titan continues to deliver steady growth, with fiscal third-quarter 2015 revenue increasing 7% year over year, and earnings per share jumping 19%. Even better, management sees tremendous growth opportunities ahead in Nike's e-commerce and direct-to-consumer businesses. As Nike seizes these profit opportunities and finds new ways to expand its global sports apparel empire, it should continue to delight both sports fans and shareholders alike.
What's a sports story without a little rivalry? Under Armour has long played the role as underdog to Nike as the dominant competitor in the sports apparel industry. But make no mistake: Under Armour is a force to be reckoned with and has been steadily increasing its share of both the sports apparel and footwear markets.
Founder and CEO Kevin Plank is a ferocious competitor, and he relishes Under Armour's underdog image relative to its far larger rival, Nike. Plank and his team love to operate within and promote an "us versus them" philosophy. This competitive fire, along with Under Armour's blood-pumping marketing campaigns, have endeared it to hardcore athletes and their fans and helped the company take share in the global sports apparel market both here in the U.S. and abroad.
Under Armour has also displayed a strong ability to identify talented athletes early in their careers and sign them to long-term endorsement deals. This valuable ability was on full display recently as 21-year-old phenom Jordan Spieth won his first Masters, slightly more than a year after Under Amour signed him to a 10-year contract. That's a deal that will likely pay off for Under Armour -- and its shareholders -- for the next decade.
ESPN needs no introduction among sports fans. Widely regarded as the worldwide leader in sports entertainment, ESPN dominates coverage of many of the most popular sports including the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball, among many others. Through an expanding array of multi-media platforms, including the new SEC Network and ESPN's record-breaking coverage of the first-ever College Football Playoff, ESPN continues to delight sports fans around the world.
But unbeknownst to many sports fans is that ESPN is actually owned by Disney. In fact, ESPN is the crown jewel of Disney's entertainment empire, comprising the majority of its operating profit. Even better, ESPN generates tremendous cash flow, which helps Disney reward shareholders in the form of share buybacks and rising dividend payments.
So with an investment in Disney, sports fans can smile as they watch their favorite teams on one of ESPN's many networks, knowing that their viewership -- and that of millions of people around the world -- will help deliver a growing stream of income into their portfolios for years to come.