United the most valuable, Barca the strongest in the latest brand report

MANCHESTER United may have been overshadowed by neighbours City in the Premier League this season, but the Old Trafford club remains the world’s most valuable football club brand.

In a new report by Brand Finance, United’s US$ 1.9bn brand value tops the Football 50, ahead of the Spanish duo Real Madrid and Barcelona, the latter in possession of the world’s strongest football club brand.

Once more, though, the power of the Premier League is evident, with 18 of the 50 provided by the English top flight. Germany’s Bundesliga is also prominent with 13 clubs. Manchester United’s value is more than US$ 300m higher than the value of Real Madrid and Barcelona, thanks to impressive revenue streams and on-field success. The club’s value was boosted by two trophies in 2016-17 and a return to the UEFA Champions League – Jose Mourinho’s team may yet end 2017-18 with the FA Cup.

United are considerably ahead of most Premier rivals, but the league as a whole enjoys impressive broadcasting income, to the tune of 60% of overall revenues. Brand Finance’s Bryn Anderson explains: “Although all member clubs benefit from strong broadcasting revenues and high levels of stadium utilisation, there is a huge gulf between the very top and the rest of the league. Furthermore, the reliance on broadcasting creates some vulnerability for the clubs and the challenge will be to successfully introduce a more balanced revenue mix in the future.”

Barcelona’s rise to the strongest brand comes at the end of a season that has seen them dominate domestic football in Spain, winning La Liga and the Copa del Rey. Barcelona’s brand has been enhanced by its profile being raised in the growth markets of China, India and the United States. Barca started the campaign with Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten and already benefits from a world record shirt sponsorship deal (US$ 189m annually) with Nike. Anderson highlights that the Spanish giants may have a hurdle to overcome in the near future. “The combination of domestic prominence and European presence makes Barcelona and Real Madrid two of the most powerful clubs in the world. Yet while their brands are instantly recognisable across all continents, they both face significant challenges in the years ahead when their star players, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, come to the end of their careers. Although the timing is uncertain, Barça and Real may have to invest to ensure there are succession plans in place.”

Bayern Munich are, predictably, among the top brands. The Bundesliga champions generate the highest commercial revenues at US$ 419m. There is a big gulf between Bayern and their domestic rivals – Borussia Dortmund (the world’s best supported club in terms of matchday attendances) is the second-placed German club with a brand value that is less half of Bayern’s US$ 1.4bn. RB Leipzig, the controversial but vibrant club that divides opinion, is the fastest growing brand in Brand Finance’s 2018 list, but while there is positive momentum, they are a considerable distance from Bayern.

Paris Saint-Germain, another club with detractors, suffered a 10% drop in brand value, despite another very successful domestic season in which they won the French treble. Juventus, Serie A champions-elect and Coppa Italia winners, saw their brand strength fall, largely due to their bold rebrand.

Europe’s champions, how they shape up (* current Serie A leaders)

  Position Brand Value BV amount
+/- % Position

Brand Strength



+/- %
Manchester City 5 1.3bn +30% 9 88.6 +4%
Paris Saint-Germain 9 913m -10% 12 83.1 0%
Bayern Munich 4 1.4bn +15% 4 93.1 +1%
Juventus* 11 605m +23% 8 88.9 -2%
Barcelona 3 1.5bn +7% 1 96.6 +1%
And others…
Manchester United 1 1.9bn +9% 3 94.6 +3%
Real Madrid 2 1.6bn +11% 2 96.2 0%

Brand Finance underlined the growing influence of China on world football, with strong government report, growing awareness and rising attendances in the Chinese Super League. Furthermore, they noted the ascending US Major League Soccer.

Anderson concluded that the current Brand Finance Football 50 reflects the evolution of the modern football business paradigm with clubs the product of marketing and globalisation. He cautioned, however: “For growth trajectories to maintain their momentum, all top clubs need to continue broadening their global footprint, forming relationships and revenue generating opportunities in growth markets. Ultimately, however, much of football’s future depends on ensuring the product is of a sufficiently high quality to continue attracting sponsors and broadcasters, the latter of which have become so vital for the game’s financial health.”

Photo: Chelmsford Blue CC-BY-2.0

To see Brand Finance’s Football 50, click here

To see an infographic highlighting key points, click here

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