Manchester United’s on-pitch performance may be underwhelming compared to its 90s and 00s heydays, but it seems its mammoth brand has survived the departure of long-time manager Alex Ferguson and the disastrous tenure of David Moyes.
A new report by Brand Finance claims the northern club has reclaimed its place as the most valuable football brand, leapfrogging European rivals Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in the process. The research says Man U’s brand is worth $1.2bn (£790m), up a whopping 63% on last year to its highest level ever, suggesting that lacklustre football is no barrier to business success.
‘The most critical success factor in the Manchester United brand’s renewed financial potency has been this year’s record-breaking, £5.1 billion deal for the UK broadcast rights of the Premier League,’ the report said. Each club will net about £81m per season, and indeed the brand values of fellow Premiership clubs Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have also enjoyed a healthy boost.
But it’s Man United’s international appeal that’s really sets it apart. ‘Even if recent reports of fan losses are to be believed, United retains legions of followers in India, South East Asia and China, contributing to a total of over half a billion individuals and the news certainly does not appear to have deterred sponsors,’ the report notes.
That might be something of an understatement. At the top end Man U’s sponsor deals are looking as strong as ever – its current shirt deal with US carmaker Chevrolet is worth £47m per year, twice that of its previous tie-up, and its kit provider Adidas is paying three times what Nike was paying.
Man U’s brand is attractive to smaller brands with less cash to throw around too – as can be seen by the remarkable list of partnerships it’s landed. Who would have thought its ‘brand synergies’ could stretch as far as Kansai, ‘Official paint partner of Manchester United,’ Epson, ‘Official office equipment partner of Manchester United,’ and even Toshiba, ‘Official medical systems partner of Manchester United’.
Global football might seem to be in crisis thanks to recent goings on at Fifa – whose sponsors look tempted to pull out, and whose vanity film United Passions took a hilariously feeble $607 in its opening weekend at the US box office. But thanks to the booming domestic teams, football looks as commercially successful as ever.