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Manchester United Football’s First Billion Dollar Brand

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A season out of Europe’s premier competition hasn’t affected Manchester United’s brand image with the club announced as football’s first billion dollar brand.

United, who finished fourth in the Premier League, 17 points behind champions Chelsea, have leapt back to the top of the The Brand Finance Football 50, an annual study conducted by brand valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance.

Knocking Bayern Munich off the top spot the Red Devils have become the first billion dollar football brand, with 63% growth bringing their total brand value to $1.2 billion.

Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Juventus caps a year of stunning successes with Saturday’s game alone adding $28 million to Barca’s brand value, contributing to a overall increase on 2014 of $151 million dollars, bringing the total value of the brand to $773 million.

However as glorious as Barca’s record may be, it simply has not been able to harness its brand to the same extent as rivals Real Madrid (whose brand is $100 million more valuable) or the rapidly growing English teams.

Manchester City and Chelsea have both overtaken it for the first time, pushing Barcelona into 6th place in the Brand Finance Football 50.

Despite sitting in 6th position the report notes that Barcelona actually has the strongest brand of any club, rated AAA+ by Brand Finance.

However ‘brand strength’ only reflects the notional potential of the brand. For a club’s brand to generate income a business team that is as star-studded and tactically brilliant as the team on the pitch is required.

Brand Finance CEO David Haigh comments, “Manchester United’s success has been masterminded by Ed Woodward, the Ronaldo of football’s commercial sphere.

“As Sir Alex Ferguson developed United’s world-beating reputation, Woodward (and United’s owners the Glazers) capitalised on the brand’s growing power to establish a worldwide fan-base and a range of sponsorship deals unrivalled in their number and value.”

That focus on extracting value from the brand, combined with United’s footballing success in the recent past, has allowed Woodward to mitigate the impact of the last two seasons’ mediocre results.

Manchester United received another boost to its financial potency this year thanks to a record-breaking new deal for the broadcast rights of the 2016 to 2019 Premier League.

The deal has been a boon to all Premier League clubs however, with Southampton this year’s fastest growing brand.

The Saints’ brand value is up 89% to $183 million. However Southampton has been more than a passive beneficiary of booming broadcast revenues with Ronald Koeman masterminding a 7th place finish for the club that was facing administration in 2009.

West Ham are also beneficiaries of the windfall showing 86% growth putting them in the top 20 for the first time, with a brand value of over $200 million.

When the club moves home to London’s Olympic stadium it can look forward to further growth thanks to its increased profile and match-day attendance.

Tara Warren, Executive Director, Marketing and Communications at West Ham commented: “When Vice-Chairman Karren Brady arrived at West Ham five years ago, she instilled a belief that we could establish the club as a truly global brand.

“The re-brand that my team have executed over the past year showed that desire to create a more ambitious and successful future.

“Our focus now is on maximising the potential of our imminent move to our magnificent, 54,000-seat new stadium.

“West Ham will always honour and celebrate its great history, but today’s findings show that West Ham United is also fast becoming one of the most investable brands in world football.”

© 2015 ESPN | This article was written by Aaron Gourley and first appeared in FCBusiness on 10 June 2015.

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