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Manchester United Slip To Third In Brand Finance League

Tue 27th May 2014 | Money & Finance

For several years Manchester United held sway as football’s most valuable brand. However in 2013, Brand Finance anticipated the likely dip in performance and prestige resulting from Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, allowing Bayern Munich to claim the top spot.

With just such a nightmare season having come to pass this year, United’s value has fallen further; the 2014 brand value of £440m is down £111m on last year, its AAA+ brand rating has slipped to AAA and it has fallen into 3rd place as Real reaps the rewards of Champions League victory.

The figures were taken from the Brand Finance Football 50, an annual study conducted by brand valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance.

United’s 7th place Premier League finish means Chevrolet has had to put the brakes on its plans to use sponsorship of the club as a way to push its brand in Europe. It has decided to pull the brand out of the continent altogether from 2015.

“For now, the brand equity founded on years of glory, shrewd commercial management and stewardship of the brand is shielding United from a more dramatic drop. However another season in the wilderness, outside the Champions League, will see brand value truly plunge, and leave few sponsors willing to do a deal with the Devils,” commented Brand Finance’s Head of Sports, Dave Chattaway.

The balance of power at the top of the English game is shifting decisively to the blue side of Manchester. City has won the title for the second time in three years and won two trophies just this season.  On pitch success is rapidly building the value of the brand; following 53% growth, City’s brand value now stands at over £304m. Provided it can navigate further significant sanctions for breaches of financial fair play regulations and manage with a restricted squad in Europe, City’s brand could soon be a far more enticing prospect than United’s for sponsors and fickle international fans.

Indeed City’s owners are already expanding the brand internationally. In a partnership with the New York Yankees, the New York City MLS franchise was launched last year, incorporating both the ‘city’ name and the same, light blue livery. Melbourne Heart was purchased in January this year with a similar expansion in mind.

Arsenal sit just behind City with a brand value of £301m, with Chelsea (£299m) and Liverpool (£279m) immediately below meaning five English teams make up the top 10 places.

At the opposite end of the table, Fulham’s demotion to the Championship has cost it dearly; a 36% brand value drop is the fastest of any club in the top 50. Now in 50th, anything other than promotion next year will see Fulham drop out of the Brand Finance Football 50 for some time to come.

Bayern Munich retains its title, with a brand value of $896m. Domestic dominance has kept Bayern in pole position; Pep Guardiola has steered the club to another Bundesliga title (with a record points haul) as well as DFB-Pokal victory over Dortmund. An aggregate 5-0 loss following a pummeling from Real Madrid in the second leg of the Champions league semi final was the only downside to an otherwise stunningly successful season. President Uli Hoeness’s conviction for tax evasion has also taken a little of the shine off the Bayern brand. Only an appreciation in the value of the euro this year has seen the dollar brand value increase.

Real Madrid once held sway as the world’s most valuable football club brand with legions of followers the world over. Devotion is such that El Clásico serves as a proxy for political rivalries not just in Catalonia but as far afield as Iraq.

The Euro crisis and Spain’s economic woes contributed to Real’s fall first to second and then third in the Brand Finance Football 50. However revenues remain huge across all three income streams (matchday, broadcasting and commercial) and Spain’s economic outlook is improving. With arguably the finest player in the world in the shape of Ronaldo and now a first Champions League title in ten years, Real’s brand is back on a solid footing.

Real’s AAA+ brand rating remains secure while brand value is up $147m to a total of $768m, the third biggest increase of any club this year. Most significantly, Real has overtaken Manchester United, leading all Premier League Clubs for the first time since 2010. With the highest revenues of any club and the most robust brand, a continuing improvement in the Spanish economy could see Real rapidly reclaim its status as the world’s most valuable football brand.

Image: Action Images / Jason Cairnduff

Posted by: Aaron Gourley 

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