Despite two consecutive trophyless seasons, the Red Devils have leapfrogged both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid to top Brand Finance’s 2014 Football 50 ranking
Manchester United have been named the most valuable football club in the world and have become the first “billion dollar” brand in the sport.
The Red Devils reclaimed their place at the top of Brand Finance’s Football 50 Brand Value ranking, despite a transitional and trophyless season under new manager Louis van Gaal, and are now worth an all-time high $1.2bn – a staggering growth of 64 per cent.
From third in the previous analysis, United leapfrogged Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, both beaten Champions League semi-finalists, to regain top spot even though they missed out on European football altogether in the 2013-14 campaign. Madrid have also been pipped to top spot in a separate Brand Power ranking, this time by rivals Barcelona.
United first claimed top spot in the Brand Value stakes in 2009 after winning the Champions League a year previously, and recorded their previous highest brand value of $853m in 2012 following success in the Premier League and second place in Europe’s top club competition.
The club dropped to third in 2013, their lowest position ever in the rankings, following David Moyes’ ultimately unsuccessful stint as Alex Ferguson’s successor.
This year’s resurgence, despite two consecutive seasons without silverware, highlights the club’s enduring financial power.
Off-field rather than on-field dominance, according to Brand Finance, has been the major driver in the club’s revival. Citing more than half a billion fans worldwide, record-breaking sponsorship deals with Chevrolet and Adidas, as well as an expected return to the Champions League, the company expects United’s revenues and brand value to increase in coming years.
The most important factor, however, has been the Premier League’s earth-shattering €6.94bn UK broadcast rights deal, which pushed United’s share price up by 5% as soon as it was announced in February.
United’s power surge in the most recent analysis has outstripped a 4% increase in brand value from previous leaders Bayern, and a 14% increase from Madrid.
The Bundesliga champions are now worth $933m compared to $896m last year, while the Spanish giants leapt from $768m to $873m.
With English clubs, boosted by that Premier League rights deal, growing by more than 85% in the cases of Southampton, Everton, Stoke City and West Ham, Bayern and their flat growth are being caught up by traditionally smaller clubs.
“Bayern must internationalise its appeal in order to stay at (or near) the top,” Brand Finance says in its report. “Though commercial revenue is high, there are few opportunities to extract further value from its current fan base, which is much more domestic in its composition than other top teams.”