· Global brand study reveals Aeroflot is the world’s most powerful airline brand
· Domestic brand equity, marketing investment, a new fleet and Russia’s growing hub status underpin the result
· American Airlines is the most valuable brand however, worth US$9.8 billion
Every year, leading valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance values the brands of thousands of the world’s biggest companies. Brands are first evaluated to determine their power / strength (based on factors such as marketing investment, familiarity, loyalty, staff satisfaction and corporate reputation) and given a corresponding letter grade up to AAA+. Brand strength is used to determine what proportion of a business’s revenue is contributed by the brand, which is projected into perpetuity to determine the brand’s value. The world’s 50 most valuable airline brands are then ranked and included in the Brand Finance Airlines 50.
View the full list of the world’s 50 most valuable airline brands here
Aeroflot is the world’s most powerful airline brand, with an AAA brand rating. The news may come as a surprise to those in Europe and North America more familiar with Western or Gulf flag carriers. Aeroflot’s brand strength stems in part from dominance of its domestic market. Its brand equity scores for metrics such as familiarity, consideration, preference and loyalty are formidable, both when compared against other Russian airlines and against foreign ones within their home markets. This is all the more impressive given that there are no air routes for which Aeroflot has exclusive access, demonstrating that its strength is underpinned by competitive advantage rather than monopoly.
Vitaly Saveliev, CEO of Aeroflot, said: “Aeroflot is honoured to be named the world’s strongest airline brand. This recognition reflects not just our 93-year legacy as the No.1 air carrier in the world’s biggest country, but also our best-in-class service offering on domestic and international routes, the youngest fleet of any major carrier globally, and of course our marketing efforts. Our current focus is on digitising Aeroflot – whether the customer experience or the behind-the-scenes management of logistics. As we continue to deliver on these goals and others, we are confident that the Aeroflot brand will grow ever stronger and both passengers and the industry will continue to recognise it as synonymous with excellence.”
Investment in the brand, which lays the foundations for future resilience and growth, is another key component of brand strength in which Aeroflot excels. It has the youngest fleet of any major airline and is investing heavily in marketing promotion, particularly in Asia. This is reinforced by its sponsorship of Manchester United (the world’s most valuable football brand), which helps Aeroflot reach a vast audience across East Asia in particular. The approach is clearly paying off.
President Donald Trump may find it somewhat difficult to reconcile his desire to ‘Make America Great Again’ with Aeroflot’s success, however he will be consoled by the performance of America’s top airline brands based on brand value.
The top three most valuable airline brands are now all American. For the last five years Emirates, had held the title of world’s most valuable airline brand, but 2017 sees a dramatic shift. Last year, Emirates’ half-year profits plunged 75%. The lower oil price might have been expected to help all airlines, however it has worked against the Gulf carriers, reducing demand from its home region. The lower oil price has also levelled the playing field for international rivals, leading to increased competition, driving down fares. The discount rate applied to all Gulf airlines has increased in tandem with this less favourable environment, reducing long term value. Finally, the strength of the dollar has increased operating costs and also had a negative FX impact on all non-US domiciled brands.
As a consequence, Emirates’ brand value is down 21% to US$6.1 billion, Etihad’s value is flat (staying at US$1.56bn) while Qatar Airways has been most strongly affected, with brand value falling 38% from 2016 to US$2.16bn. Despite these brand value falls, brand strength has not been affected. Etihad and Qatar Airways retain their AA and AA+ brand ratings while Emirates continues to challenge for the title of world’s strongest airline brand, with an AAA rating.
Meanwhile all US airlines have soared in value. The average year to year growth rate of the seven US brands in the table is 68%. The challenges that the Gulf carriers have faced have been to the advantage of America’s major airlines. The lower oil price and a rebounding US economy see United, Delta and American all overtake Emirates with 60%, 47% and 59% growth respectively. With a brand value of US$9.8 billion, American is now the world’s most valuable airline brand for the first time since 2007.
Note to Editors
Brand values are reported in USD. For precise conversions into local currency values, please confirm rates with the Brand Finance team. More information about the methodology, as well as definitions of key terms are available in the Brand Finance Airlines 50 report document.
Brand Finance is the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy. Bridging the gap between marketing and finance, Brand Finance evaluates the strength of brands and quantifies their financial value to help organisations of all kinds make strategic decisions.
Headquartered in London, Brand Finance has offices in over 20 countries, offering services on all continents. Every year, Brand Finance conducts more than 5,000 brand valuations, supported by original market research, and publishes nearly 100 reports which rank brands across all sectors and countries.
Brand Finance is a regulated accountancy firm, leading the standardisation of the brand valuation industry. Brand Finance was the first to be certified by independent auditors as compliant with both ISO 10668 and ISO 20671, and has received the official endorsement of the Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MASB) in the United States.
Brand is defined as a marketing-related intangible asset including, but not limited to, names, terms, signs, symbols, logos, and designs, intended to identify goods, services, or entities, creating distinctive images and associations in the minds of stakeholders, thereby generating economic benefits.
Brand strength is the efficacy of a brand’s performance on intangible measures relative to its competitors. Brand Finance evaluates brand strength in a process compliant with ISO 20671, looking at Marketing Investment, Stakeholder Equity, and the impact of those on Business Performance. The data used is derived from Brand Finance’s proprietary market research programme and from publicly available sources.
Each brand is assigned a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score out of 100, which feeds into the brand value calculation. Based on the score, each brand is assigned a corresponding Brand Rating up to AAA+ in a format similar to a credit rating.
Brand Finance calculates the values of brands in its rankings using the Royalty Relief approach – a brand valuation method compliant with the industry standards set in ISO 10668. It involves estimating the likely future revenues that are attributable to a brand by calculating a royalty rate that would be charged for its use, to arrive at a ‘brand value’ understood as a net economic benefit that a brand owner would achieve by licensing the brand in the open market.
The steps in this process are as follows:
1 Calculate brand strength using a balanced scorecard of metrics assessing Marketing Investment, Stakeholder Equity, and Business Performance. Brand strength is expressed as a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score on a scale of 0 to 100.
2 Determine royalty range for each industry, reflecting the importance of brand to purchasing decisions. In luxury, the maximum percentage is high, while in extractive industry, where goods are often commoditised, it is lower. This is done by reviewing comparable licensing agreements sourced from Brand Finance’s extensive database.
3 Calculate royalty rate. The BSI score is applied to the royalty range to arrive at a royalty rate. For example, if the royalty range in a sector is 0-5% and a brand has a BSI score of 80 out of 100, then an appropriate royalty rate for the use of this brand in the given sector will be 4%.
4 Determine brand-specific revenues by estimating a proportion of parent company revenues attributable to a brand.
5 Determine forecast revenues using a function of historic revenues, equity analyst forecasts, and economic growth rates.
6 Apply the royalty rate to the forecast revenues to derive brand revenues.
7 Discount post-tax brand revenues to a net present value which equals the brand value.
Brand Finance has produced this study with an independent and unbiased analysis. The values derived and opinions presented in this study are based on publicly available information and certain assumptions that Brand Finance used where such data was deficient or unclear. Brand Finance accepts no responsibility and will not be liable in the event that the publicly available information relied upon is subsequently found to be inaccurate. The opinions and financial analysis expressed in the study are not to be construed as providing investment or business advice. Brand Finance does not intend the study to be relied upon for any reason and excludes all liability to any body, government, or organisation.
The data presented in this study form part of Brand Finance's proprietary database, are provided for the benefit of the media, and are not to be used in part or in full for any commercial or technical purpose without written permission from Brand Finance.