Consultancy Brand Finance released its annual study assessing football’s biggest clubs to see which command the strongest brands.
As well as taking the top spot from Bayern Munich, United has also become the first billion dollar football brand, with 63 per cent growth, bringing a total brand value to $1.2bn. This followed Deloitte’s review of football finance, which found the Premier League was getting richer, with United boasting the highest revenue of the Premier League clubs with £433.2m.
The English presence at the top of the brand league is strong – with Tottenham moving up into tenth place, taking the total number of Premier League clubs in the top ten up to six.
Brand Finance’s chief executive, David Haigh, said: “Manchester United’s success has been masterminded by Ed Woodward, the Ronaldo of football’s commercial sphere.”
Despite being under pressure from fans and former players alike when he became executive vice-chairman in 2013, Haigh said Woodward has “capitalised on the brand’s growing power to establish a worldwide fanbase and a range of sponsorship deals, unrivalled in their number and value”.
Haigh suggested that United’s limp performances over the past couple of seasons have been mitigated by the “focus on extracting value from the brand, combined with United’s football success in the past”.
United’s sponsorship deals remain particularly strong – the current shirt deal with Chevrolet at £47m a year is more than double that shared with the previous partner AON. Adidas has stepped in as the kit sponsor for the next ten years in a £750m deal.
Elsewhere, while Barcelona’s team remains the envy of the football world – completing a memorable treble with their Champions League triumph over Juventus and becoming the first club to have won the treble twice – it was in sixth place of the Brand Finance Football 50. Fiercest rival Real Madrid was $100m more valuable according to the report, and the increasing financial clout of the English teams has seen Manchester City and Chelsea overtake the Spanish champions, for the first time.
Brand Finance however, has qualified this by saying Barcelona possesses the strongest brand of any club – rated AAA+, thanks to its consistent success in recent years and collection of the biggest names in football, from Messi to Iniesta. Brand strength reflects the notional potential of a brand and the consultancy suggested much more could be done to harness this potential.
Bayern and Real Madrid dropped a place each to second and third respectively. Paris Saint-Germain moved up into ninth, with Juventus climbing a couple of places but just missing out on the top ten.
Juventus secured lucrative commercial deals, with Adidas replacing Nike as the kit supplier in a €139.5m deal, helping a 42 per cent increase in brand value for the Italian club, now at $350m. It marked a significant turnaround from the scandals that had tarnished the club a decade ago.
The Premier League has drawn ahead financially however, in part due to the new record-breaking deal for broadcast rights of the 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons. It is worth £5.1bn for the UK rights alone and nearer to £9bn for the global rights, representing a 70 per cent increase on the last round. This news saw Manchester United’s share price jump five per cent as an immediate result.
It bodes well for English teams in general though – each Premier League club will receive close to £150m a season, meaning all of their brand values have risen this year. Southampton was this year’s fastest-growing brand – up 89 per cent to $183m.
Despite raising eyebrows at the mass exodus of players during last summer’s transfer window, Southampton continued to go from strength to strength. Manager Ronald Koeman led the team to a seventh place finish in the league – a remarkable turnaround for a club that was facing administration back in 2009. The opportunity to play European football next season will also provide an opportunity to build its brand value internationally.