Soccer ball. Picture: THINKSTOCK
Soccer ball. Picture: THINKSTOCK

Spain’s Real Madrid is the world’s most powerful football club brand — but is still eclipsed by Manchester United, which remains the most valuable club brand, worth just over US$1.7bn.

The latest Brand Finance study also reveals that English Premier League (EPL) clubs dominate the "most-valuable" table, accounting for almost 50% of total brand value.

Brand power measures the emotional pull that a football brand has over its fans and would include aspects like loyalty, reach beyond borders and merchandising.

Unsurprisingly, no SA football brands come close to the most valuable table. According to German-owned football market website Transfermarkt, the Mamelodi Sundowns brand is worth about R155m, followed by Kaizer Chiefs (R125m) and SuperSport United (R108m).

Brand Finance says Real Madrid’s superb season, with victory in both La Liga and the Champions League, sees it eclipse rivals Barcelona in the "most-powerful" stakes.

The brand power of the two Spanish clubs, says the report, was already formidable and unmatched by any other club worldwide.

Manchester United’s success is partly the result of an enduring halo effect from the good times under manager Alex Ferguson. However, the most crucial ingredient has been the club’s commercial ability to convert its success into lucrative deals across dozens of industry sectors and national territories.

In contrast, Real Madrid has not leveraged its brand equity to the same extent as United, failing to pursue the same range of partnerships.

SA Brand Finance director Jeremy Sampson says while not reflecting stellar values, local club brands far outshine the Bafana Bafana national brand. And though Kaizer Chiefs was once voted the biggest football brand in Africa, he suggests it may still be riding on past success as other clubs gain ascendancy. Bidvest Wits, for example, won the 2016/2017 Absa Premiership title with a game to spare.

Sampson believes brand value is directly linked to ownership and investment. "In the world of football branding it’s all about money, passion and winning consistently. So spare a thought for Highlands Park FC, relegated from the PSL this year. But they will be back, provided they find a wealthy millionaire."

Brand Finance CEO David Haigh says Real Madrid could perform significantly better in growth markets outside Europe if it pays as careful attention to its off-pitch strategy as it does to its on-pitch performance.

"Newfound status as the world’s most powerful brand ought to provide the club with powerful ammunition in ongoing discussions with Emirates to renegotiate the shirt sponsorship."

English Premier League clubs continue to lead the world when it comes to commercialising their brands. Chelsea stands to gain significantly through a reported £900m, 15-year deal with Nike as well as from a near-50% increase to the capacity of Stamford Bridge stadium. All EPL teams continue to benefit from the vast revenues brought in by the latest broadcasting rights deal with Sky and BT.

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