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$1bn Manchester United remain top of Brand Finance's Football 50 list

Ross McLean
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Manchester United v Crystal Palace - The Emirates FA Cup Final
A first FA Cup in more than a decade helped United retain the status of having the most valuable brand (Source: Getty)

Manchester United have retained their status as the club with the most valuable brand in world football despite failing to qualify for next season’s Champions League and a campaign which culminated in the axing of manager Louis van Gaal.

A first FA Cup success in more than a decade and forecasts of continuing revenue increases were enough for the Old Trafford club to withstand a concerted challenge from Real Madrid and top Brand Finance’s Football 50 list, published today.

For the second successive year, United’s brand value has remained above the billion dollar threshold, making the 20-time top-flight winners the only team to have achieved such a feat twice.

La Liga champions Barcelona, United’s neighbours Manchester City and Bayern Munich complete the top five, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham make the top 10, while 17 English clubs and one Welsh, Swansea City, are in the top 50.

The fastest growing brand of 2016 belongs to Leicester City, whose fairytale Premier League title win has been matched by it’s commercial prominence. An unprecedented 132 per cent rise in brand value to $237m (£164m) has seen the Foxes soar to 16th place, up from 42nd in 2015.

Brand Finance, the leading international brand valuation and strategy consultancy, uses a wide range of factors to calculate both a club’s brand value and brand rating.

The brand rating reflects the image of the club, as the public would perceive it, and takes into account reputation, heritage, on-pitch performance, and how aware people are of them.

That brand rating is then combined with revenue, both current and projected, to estimate a brand value, which is of particular interest to the marketing and sponsorship industries.

United, who appointed Jose Mourinho as their new boss last month, maintained their spot at the summit of the list, having initially lost it to Bayern in 2013, despite dropping three per cent in brand value.

The decrease, however, was largely due to unfavourable exchange rates against the dollar. Calculated in pounds sterling, the Red Devils actually increased brand value by nine per cent.

Despite a largely underwhelming season, United remain a huge draw for major global brands and a £75 million-a-year kit deal with Adidas heads a list of lucrative deals.

Allied to the bumper three-year TV deal which starts next season, the expectation is that the first football club to post a brand value in excess of $1bn will continue to dominate.

“With a massive presence in the world’s two largest economies, the United brand retains the strength to survive a few difficult seasons,” Brand Finance chief executive David Haigh told City A.M.

“With seasoned winner Jose Mourinho brought in to replace Van Gaal, the expectation will be that surviving tough times on the strength of the brand will be merely hypothetical.”

A familiar plot line to their campaign failed to prevent Arsenal boasting a 22 per cent increase in brand value to $858m (£593m) and assume sixth place, up from seventh in 2015, overtaking London rivals Chelsea, who dropped from fifth to eighth, in the process.

Dethroned Premier League champions Chelsea endured a chastening on-field season, although their commercial power, which includes a £60 million-a-year kit deal with Nike effective from the 2017/18 season, continues to grow. Their brand value slipped two per cent to $776m (£536m).

Liverpool dropped to ninth despite a 30 per cent hike in brand value to $748m (£517m), while Tottenham again prop up the top 10, but witnessed a 23 per cent rise to $441m (£305m).