The reign of Spain – Real and Barca top the Brand Finance table

REAL MADRID have not only been crowned La Liga champions, they have also topped Brand Finance’s rankings for the most valuable football brands.

Real’s league title win, their first since 2017, partly compensates for the club’s relatively poor 2018-19 campaign when they were knocked-out of the UEFA Champions League earlier than usual and went through three coaches.

It is not out of the question they could win back the trophy they last won in 2018, but they are a goal behind in the round of 16 and have to negotiate a tough second leg at Manchester City

Real, despite being the top brand valuation at € 1.419 billion, lost around 14% of their value. Barcelona, their fierce rivals, are now just € 6 million behind them thanks to their strong and diverse revenue generation.

However, Barca were embroiled in internal politics in 2019-20 and sacked their manager in mid-season, which many commentators heralded as the start of a significant crisis at the club.

Both Real and Barca always had the dilemma of dealing with the post Ronaldo/Messi world. Ronaldo left Real in 2018 and the season that followed his departure was very difficult. The club appears to have adjusted the loss of CR7, but Barca still have that problem to come.

Real and Barca have both attempted to be more creative in their offering to fans and partners. Real have broadened their business offering by launching an innovation brand, Real Madrid Next, which aims to work with tech-orientated start-up companies.

How Spanish clubs fare in Brand Finance’s Football Annual

Pos  Club 2019 +/- BST
1 Real Madrid 1 1
2 Barcelona 3 +1 2
13 Atlético Madrid 14 +1 12
32 Sevilla 35 +3 22
36 Valencia 48 +12 15
40 Athletic Bilbao 45 +5 26
44 Villareal 47 +3 47

Source: Brand Finance
Table is Brand Value rankings
BST= Brand Strength

Barca may have lost their league title, but their recent record remains impressive – seven of the last 11 league titles.

Away from the field of play, Barca are on track to become the first club in Europe to reach the landmark of € 1 billion in annual revenues, partly due to a strategic decision to take merchandising in-house.

Global ambitions

Spanish clubs, with the exception of Real Madrid who maintained their position, all improved their ranking in the Brand Finance table.

There’s little doubt that Real and Barca are likely to have politics and over-expectation weighing them down at times. Atlético Madrid, who have been in the ascendancy for the best part of a decade, are in transition. Now in their third season at their very impressive Wanda Metropolitano stadium, Atléti have been reducing their high level of indebtedness, much of which accompanied the construction of the gleaming new ground close to Madrid airport.

Their brand value fell slightly, but the gulf between Atléti and the big two in Spain is still very substantial. The club’s strength is in their relative stability – Diego Simeone has been coach at the club since 2011.

Atléti remain Spain’s number three club in many ways, but they underlined their credentials when they beat Liverpool, the reigning European champions in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 just before the pandemic lockdown.

Real and Barca, and indeed Atléti to some extent, are strong global brands and have little difficulty attracting fans and sponsors around the world, but other Spanish clubs are clearly trying to expand their footprint to win followers in Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Sevilla, five times winners of the Europa League, are committed to grassroots development in emerging markets, such as in India where they are hosting soccer schools for young children. They are also planning to expand their iconic Ramón Sánchez Pizjuan stadium beyond its current 43,000 capacity.

Valencia’s new stadium, which has sat unfinished for more than a decade, is set to be completed via a new project that will take them away from the Mestalla, the oldest ground in La Liga. With a reputation as one of Spain’s best-run clubs, Villarreal are expanding their presence in other parts of the world and have launched Villarreal Melbourne and established the first academy run by a Spanish club in Australia. The club also has academies in the US, Puerto Rico and Sweden.

Similarly, Real Betis, one of the best supported clubs in Spain, are aiming to build a more global franchise and have targeted North America as a market that could support brand expansion and attract global sponsors.

Athletic Club Bilbao, meanwhile, remain one of the most unique clubs in Europe in that they only recruit local players from the Basque region. That in itself makes them appealing to football fans around the world.

La Liga remains one of the most ambitious leagues in the world and is constantly looking at new ways to expand such as exporting games to other continents. This may be controversial but it does show the league recognises the need to broaden its appeal in order to compete with the Premier League and Bundesliga. Having two of the world’s biggest clubs in your stable certainly helps that cause.

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