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Top Football Brands Flying High with Middle Eastern Sponsors

10-May-2018 | Source : Brand Finance | Visits : 5490
LONDON - Brands from the Middle East now account for over 30% of the value of shirt sponsorships of the world’s top 50 football clubs by brand value, according to the latest report by Brand Finance, the world’s leading independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy.
Airlines lead the Middle Eastern sponsorship pack, with Emirates supporting more clubs than any other sponsor in the Brand Finance Football 50 league table, including the football club with the second-most valuable brand, Real Madrid, as well as 8th-ranked Arsenal, 9th-ranked Paris Saint-Germain, and 18th-ranked AC Milan. Thanks to their sponsorship contracts, Emirates enjoy the highest level of awareness (32%) of all the leading sponsors, according to Brand Finance’s original market research conducted among fans in China, India, and the USA.
Etihad Airways sponsors 6th-ranked Manchester City, and Qatar Airways sponsors 26th-ranked AS Roma. Curiously, airlines from outside the Middle East do not sponsor any of the football clubs ranked in the Brand Finance Football 50 league table.
Etihad-sponsored Manchester City had a particularly positive year of brand value growth, up 30% to USD 1,331 million. This was driven by both local and national factors, with stadium improvements increasing capacity for local attendance at games, while increased income from broadcasting and prize money was driven by their Premier League win last year. In addition, it is understood that Manchester City is preparing to renegotiate a number of key sponsorship deals, which will see the club benefit from their continued Premier League dominance and their improved brand strength rating.
Bryn Anderson, Director at Brand Finance, commented:
“The Middle Eastern airlines are leading the industry in their support of iconic global football clubs. Not only is this earning significant attention within the European cities where the clubs are based, but the global nature of their fan base is earning attention for the airlines from across the world. These sponsorships work because football is a truly global sport, allowing airlines with global aspirations to reach customers and potential customers around the world.”
Barça Beat Real in El Clásico of Brands
FC Barcelona boast the strongest football brand in the world according to the Brand Finance Football 50 report. Barça were pushed into second place in 2017 by bitter rivals Real Madrid, but after a season in which they had the upper hand in domestic football and benefitted from sponsorship deals, the Catalan club’s brand strength improved – from 95.4 to 96.6 – while Real’s remained virtually unchanged, despite another powerful performance in the UEFA Champions League. Barcelona’s rise as the world’s strongest football brand was also driven by excellent fan feedback in Brand Finance’s original research conducted in the developing football markets of China, India, and the United States.
The 2018 review of football brands demonstrates that the top clubs continue to grow in terms of brand value and strength, creating an elite group that has consolidated its position at the forefront of world football. Placings change, but breaking into the upper echelon is becoming increasingly difficult for contenders. What is more, the drawing power of football’s aristocracy has resulted in some of the biggest sponsorship deals in the world, forging mutually beneficial partnerships between corporate and club brands.
Barcelona went into 2017-18 with a new manager and lacking the talismanic Neymar, who reportedly yielded in excess of USD 250 million in transfer income for the club when he signed for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). Barça also started the season with a new, lucrative shirt sponsorship deal with Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten that is earning them USD 67 million per annum, a figure bettered only by Real Madrid’s arrangements with Fly Emirates (USD 85 million) and Manchester United’s deal with Chevrolet (USD 74 million). Barça are significantly ahead of all their peers in their kit manufacturer agreement, however, grossing USD 189 million annually from Nike, the world’s number one sports sponsorship deal.
Barcelona may have enjoyed more recent success in Spain than Real Madrid, winning 13 honours versus Real’s four in the past decade, but Real have won three of the last four UEFA Champions Leagues and are poised for another final in 2017-18. Indeed, Real’s dominance in the leading European competition has created a dynasty that compares to the club’s golden age of the mid-to-late 1950s. Real’s brand is enhanced by the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s most highly paid sportsman with 300 million social media followers.
Barcelona’s battle with Real Madrid extends beyond the playing field and is also about winning the hearts and minds of people outside of Spain, and indeed, Europe. According to Brand Finance’s original market research, La Liga has a very high level of awareness – some 59% – among football fans in China, India, and the USA.
Bryn Anderson, Director at Brand Finance, commented:
“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.”
Premier Power
While the strength of Barça and Real’s brands, built on consistent success and global appeal, is undeniable, the two clubs, in terms of brand value, still trail Manchester United by a significant margin. Placed at the head of the table again this year, United’s brand value of USD 1,895 million is more than USD 300 million higher than that of either Real or Barça.
Manchester United’s brand strength improved on 2017 by 3% and their brand value grew by 9%. After last year’s exile in the UEFA Europa League, United’s brand strength was enhanced by two trophies and a return to the Champions League this season. Like all Premier League clubs, United benefit from extraordinary broadcasting revenues, but the club’s commercial revenues, totalling USD 390 million in 2017, are far greater than domestic and most international rivals.
The composition of this year’s league table reflects the undoubted commercial power of the Premier League with 18 teams in the top 50 and six in the first 10. Premier League clubs enjoy elevated status due to broadcasting, which accounts for 60% of all revenues and, in some cases, contributes more than 90% of club income. In terms of matchday revenues, however, many of the Premier clubs have modest income, largely due to stadium size. Even prominent clubs like Chelsea and Tottenham have had restrictive home grounds that should be remedied with the construction of new stadiums. Outside of the United Kingdom, the Premier enjoys very healthy levels of awareness – 69% – in the growth markets polled by Brand Finance.
Bryn Anderson, Director at Brand Finance, commented:
“The English Premier League remains the most visible and most intensely marketed football league worldwide, hence its heavy presence in the Brand Finance Football 50. 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.”
Muscle in Munich
A positive feeling is something that has been associated with Germany’s Bundesliga for some years, thanks to accessible ticket pricing and high levels of supporter engagement. Bayern Munich continue to lead the way with serial title wins, the sixth consecutive success being achieved in 2017-18. The Bundesliga remains the best supported football league in the world, with crowds averaging over 44,500 per game. Bayern generate higher commercial revenues than any other club globally, some USD 419 million in 2017. Bayern rise to fourth in this year’s ranking in terms of brand strength and also improved brand value by 15% to USD 1,406 million.
The Bundesliga provides 13 clubs in the top 50, but the gulf between Bayern and Germany’s other representatives is significant. The closest club to Bayern is Borussia Dortmund, the world’s best supported in terms of matchday attendances, with a brand value of USD 587 million, followed by Schalke 04, at USD 385 million.
Interestingly, a recently established club, RB Leipzig (RBL) is the fastest-growing brand in the 2018 list. The club’s brand value is up by 140% to USD 348 million. In brand strength, RBL are ranked 16th, up from 45th position. RBL’s presence is not only a reflection of success on the field – second place in the Bundesliga in 2016-17 and a debut in the UEFA Champions League – but also evidences the sponsorship backing of Red Bull. The RBL story captures the zeitgeist of the modern game, but this fledgling club is still a considerable distance from established football institutions like Bayern Munich.
If RBL represents the new breed, PSG are several years into the project that started with the acquisition by Qatar Sports Investments. Yet PSG lost 10% in brand value, dropping below the USD 1 billion mark, and brand strength was unchanged at 83.1. Once again, they under-achieved in the UEFA Champions League, but the 2017-18 campaign saw the club regain the Ligue 1 crown. Although PSG remains the most successful French football club with a team that now includes Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, the implications of a possible breach of Financial Fair Play rules may impact their brand strength in the future.
Like PSG in France, Juventus remain significantly ahead of the competition in Italy. Juve’s brand value rose by 23% to USD 605 million, thanks to a run to the Champions League final in 2017 and continued domestic success. Juve’s bold rebrand affected the club’s brand strength this year (down 2% to 88.9) as fans in Italy and elsewhere are still getting used to the club’s new visual identity.

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