By Jake Mann
Major League Baseball season is just around the corner and there are plenty of reasons for fans to be excited about America's Pastime, both on and off of the diamond. This past winter, a number of the sport's biggest stars have moved teams - Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and José Reyes to name a few. These roster moves prove that teams like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the Miami Marlins are ready to join the ranks of serious World Series contenders. Aside from the professional athletes that make this sport great, investors too can make a play this upcoming MLB season. Who knows, they might even hit a home run with these stock picks.
V.F. Corporation (VFC) - A U.S. based Apparel Company that dates its beginnings back to the turn of the 20th century; V.F. Corporation owns a number of popular clothing brands, including Majestic Athletic, the MLB's official uniform provider. Since 2005, Majestic has been the league's primary producer of authentic jerseys, jackets and all gear imaginable. In this time, jersey sales have increased steadily, hitting an all-time high in 2010 while maintaining that ground in 2011. There are plenty of reasons for jersey sales to spike even higher in 2012, as 6 of the 30 MLB teams are making significant changes to their uniforms. Most likely, fans of the San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins, Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, and Colorado Rockies will don their teams' newest threads by midsummer. This would boost shares of VFC, which have already jumped 56 percent over the past year.
News Corporation (NWS) - A media corporation based in America, News Corp. owns Fox Sports Net, a group of 19 regional cable TV networks that have exclusive coverage of MLB teams in their areas. Termed names like "Fox Sports Arizona" or "Fox Sports Midwest," these networks cover two-thirds of the league's teams (larger teams like the Yankees and Red Sox have their own stations). The current competitive balancing-act that is occurring in Major League Baseball bodes well for smaller-market teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers that can be seen on Fox Sports Net. The numbers support this argument, as total advertising sales were up 30 percent in 2011, and since the start of 2012, NWS stock has increased 11 percent. If small-market fans continue to watch their favorite teams on Fox Sports Net this baseball season, look for shares of NWS to bounce even higher.
PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP) - PepsiCo, which has interests in just about every junk food imaginable, is the MLB's official provider of soft drinks and sunflower seeds. In Babe Ruth's time, these two food groups were the best kinds of "performance enhancers," and while players these days seem to think otherwise, the two products are still staples at the ballpark. While shares of PEP have remained relatively flat around $63 a share over the last year, PepsiCo executives are employing a "high-growth" strategy in 2012 by introducing a new digital marketing campaign in time for - you guessed it - baseball season. They are hopeful that PEP's share price can receive a boost from these efforts, and you should be too.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.