Which club has the most followers in the world? Real Madrid? FC Barcelona? No. It’s Manchester United. Last year, Kantar Media hailed the British club as that which moved most passions among football fans, with 659 million supporters. Likewise Forbes magazine gave it a market value of $3.165 million [SN1] (of which 432 million correspond to the brand).
Its possible than in recent weeks, other clubs have surpassed it in certain aspects, such as Bayern de Munich, which now has a greater brand value ($860 million), according to Brand Finance. The two giants of the Spanish League, Real Madrid and Barcelona, are third and fourth in this ranking, respectively. The white club has a tag of $621 million, while the blue and scarlets rack up $572 million.
But Manchester United has been the clear ruler in the past decade and a half of rankings in the valuation of the major world clubs.
In the specific case of sport, what constitutes brand value? It comes down to a combination of factors, on one hand, there’s the obvious successes on the playing field. In the past 20 years, Manchester United has won 13 Premier League titles, the most popular national competition in the whole world, which has been a ticket to its global popularity. What’s more, it has had a great run in the Champions League, winning the cup in 2008, and playing in the 2009 and 2011 finals.
On the other hand, we also have to take playing style into account. According to the aforementioned Kantar Media study and declarations by the managers of the British club, Manchester United has been characterized by playing “attack” football. It’s fair to say that FC Barcelona has achieved renowned excellence in its offensive style, but once again the red devils have kept hold of this identity symbol in their game style for longer. The Brits have seduced a huge number of fans that have connected this daring play philosophy with the team at Old Trafford.
Excellent results and showy play influence the popularity of the brand. A clear example of the job well done by Manchester United lies in the huge TV audiences it attracts all over the world. According to the team’s own data, in the 2011-2012 season, some 3 billion people in more than 56 countries tuned in to its matches.
To top it all off, we should add the important players that have graced its line-up: David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo… The enormous popularity of these stars is a magnet for securing fans’ loyalty to the team. But above all, the presence of its trainer until this season stands out. Alex Ferguson has been a bastion of loyalty and clear proof of how a brand can maintain a way of working for over 20 years.
Manchester United is a model upon which other major clubs have focused in order to stretch their brands beyond national championships. Other interesting lessons can be extracted for the branding of any company, like how to maintain a clear working philosophy, or how to demonstrate global willpower and an appetite to please your potential audience. This is the case of Manchester United So I need. To answer this question * What does the Manchester United brand represent… think culture?
* How is a football club brand different to a more mainstream consumer brand… think passion? The reference is. Beech, J and Chadwick S (2007) The Marketing of Sport. Prentice Hall
Lagae, W.,(2005) Sports Sponsorship and Marketing Communications. A European Perspective. Prentice Hall.
Hopwood, M., Skinner, J. and Kitchin P. (2010) Sport Public Relations and Communcation. Elsevier
Brassington F. and Pettitt, S. (2007) Essentials of Marketing.2nd Ed Harlow FT Prentice Hall