Editors' Pick: Originally published Feb. 5.
The annual gladiatorial contest known as The Super Bowl is America's biggest sports event of the year, when more than 100 million viewers gather to watch the best professional football teams compete for the championship in the country's most popular sport.
Super Bowl Sunday is an unofficial American national holiday and ranks as the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption, after Thanksgiving. It's consistently the most watched U.S. television broadcast of the year.
And do those famously clever Super Bowl ads work? You bet they do. Companies that advertise in the Super Bowl often see a significant spike in sales, which can translate into stock gains.
This year, technology-intensive growth companies will figure prominently in Super Bowl ads, as they seek the attention of millennials who are increasingly concerned about their finances in a dicey economy.
For the first time, PayPal, (PYPL - Get Report) SunTrust Banks (STI - Get Report) and Intuit (INTU - Get Report) have all bought ads during the Super Bowl contest between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, which will air on CBS on Feb. 7. A 30-second spot costs a record $5 million.
If you're looking for "Super Bowl Plays," consider this trio of advertisers, which are all first-string stocks in their own right.
PayPal's ad highlights its payment app and the shift toward digital wallets and mobile-managed money.
PayPal sports a market cap of $44 billion and dominates the burgeoning electronic payments industry. The company invests heavily in new technology to stay ahead of fast-moving trends. In an industry where brand loyalty is especially important, PayPal's platform now includes more than 180 million people around the world. PayPal is among a group of tech innovators that should soar amid a choppy market this year.
The company recently delivered a strong earnings beat, as Real Money's Jim Cramer and Jack Mohr explain.
For more commentary, check out TheStreet's Real Money this weekend for our free Open House.
With PayPal's stock now trading at about $35.19, the median 12-month price target of analysts covering the company is $40, which suggests the stock could still gain more than 13%. The highest analyst price target is $50, which implies a gain of 42%.
2. SunTrust Banks
SunTrust's ad directs viewers to a Web site, onUp.com, for financial tips and tools.
Headquartered in Georgia, SunTrust has a market cap of $17.86 billion and operates in three segments: Consumer Banking and Private Wealth Management, Wholesale Banking and Mortgage Banking. The bank has benefited from prudent balance sheet management and enjoys low costs and rising revenue and profits.
For full-year 2015, SunTrust's earnings per share came in at $3.58, up 11% year over year and beating the consensus estimate of $3.53. The stock's trailing-12-month P/E ratio is 9.8, lower than the industry average of 10.4.
With the stock trading at about $34.50, the median 12-month price target from analysts is $44, which suggests the stock could gain 27%. The highest analyst target is $50, for a gain of about 45%.
Intuit's ad portrays a small company that uses Intuit's TurboTax software.
With a market cap of $25 billion, the company provides financial management software for small businesses, consumers and accounting professionals around the world. Among its better-known brands are TurboTax and QuickBooks.
The company is building and expanding a cloud platform to boost long-term growth, a strategy that appears to be paying off. If you're looking for technology stocks that are poised for long-term growth, Intuit belongs in your portfolio.
Intuit reported first-quarter fiscal 2016 EPS of 9 cents, beating the consensus estimate of 4 cents. Revenue for the quarter came in at $713 million vs. the consensus estimate of $670.37 million. During the quarter, the company boosted total QuickBooks Online subscribers by 57% year over year.
With the stock trading at about $92.90, the median 12-month price target from analysts is $106, suggesting the stock could gain 14%. The highest estimate is $125, which implies a gain of nearly 35%. The stock's trailing-12-month P/E of 63 isn't too out of line with the application industry's P/E of 53.9, in light of the company's growth prospects.
We've found a small-cap biotech "rocket stock" that's about to take off. UCLA researchers are stunned by a Nobel Prize-winning cancer breakthrough that's proven in clinical trials to eliminate lethal forms of cancer with a single dose. One entrepreneurial company owns the patent to this life-saving treatment. Now trading at about $5 a share, the stock of this innovative firm is projected to surge 2,700% on an imminent FDA announcement. To download the full report, click here.