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America’s Favourite Soccer Club? Barcelona Beat Rivals

10 May 2018
This article is more than 6 years old.

- FC Barcelona are America’s favourite and world’s strongest soccer club brand, according to new report by brand valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance.

- Major League Soccer enjoys higher levels of awareness among US soccer fans than European leagues.

- Chevrolet achieve brand success among fans in the USA, China, and India, thanks to sponsorship of Manchester United, the world’s most valuable brand.

- Testament to their commercial prowess, Premier League (18) and Bundesliga (13) field 31 clubs in the Brand Finance Football 50 ranking.

For a visual summary of findings, view the Brand Finance Football 50 infographic here.

View the full Brand Finance Football 50 report here.

FC Barcelona are the most popular soccer club in America, according to the latest report by Brand Finance, the world’s leading independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy. The Brand Finance Football 50 report ranks the world’s most valuable and strongest soccer brands and presents key results of Brand Finance’s original market research into fan engagement in the USA, China, and India. Barça were also found the strongest soccer club brand in the world this year.

The new research, based upon a survey of 2,000 American soccer fans, found that 39% were aware of the Catalan club brand, and 26% identified them as their favourite team. Barcelona’s scores were higher than those of any soccer club brand in the USA or Europe.

The American love of Barça means that they are around twice as popular as the most popular domestic American soccer club, Seattle FC, which was favoured by 11% of respondents. From among European heavyweights, Americans also favoured Manchester United (24%) and Real Madrid (21%).

Barça Beat Real in El Clásico of Brands

In addition to being the most popular club amongst Americans, Brand Finance also found that FC Barcelona have taken over the title as the strongest soccer brand in the world. Barça were pushed into second place in 2017 by bitter rivals Real Madrid, but after a season in which they had the upper hand in domestic soccer and benefitted from sponsorship deals, the Catalan club’s brand strength improved – from 95.4 to 96.6 – while Real’s remained virtually unchanged, despite another powerful performance in the UEFA Champions League. Barcelona’s rise as the world’s strongest soccer brand was also driven by the abovementioned positive fan feedback in Brand Finance’s original research conducted in the developing soccer markets of China, India, and the United States.

Barcelona went into 2017-18 with a new manager and lacking the talismanic Neymar, who reportedly yielded in excess of USD 250 million in transfer income for the club when he signed for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). Barça also started the season with a new, lucrative shirt sponsorship deal with Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten that is earning them USD 67 million per annum, a figure bettered only by Real Madrid’s arrangements with Fly Emirates (USD 85 million) and Manchester United’s deal with Chevrolet (USD 74 million). Barça are significantly ahead of all their peers in their kit manufacturer agreement, however, grossing USD 189 million annually from Nike, the world’s number one sports sponsorship deal.

Barcelona may have enjoyed more recent success in Spain than Real Madrid, winning 13 honours versus Real’s four in the past decade, but Real have won three of the last four UEFA Champions Leagues and are poised for another final in 2017-18. Indeed, Real’s dominance in the leading European competition has created a dynasty that compares to the club’s golden age of the mid-to-late 1950s. Real’s brand is enhanced by the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s most highly paid sportsman with 300 million social media followers.

Barcelona’s battle with Real Madrid extends beyond the playing field and is also about winning the hearts and minds of people outside of Spain, and indeed, Europe. According to Brand Finance’s original market research, La Liga has a very high level of awareness – some 59% – among soccer fans in China, India, and the USA.

Bryn Anderson, Director at Brand Finance, commented:

“The combination of domestic prominence and European presence makes Barcelona and Real Madrid two of the most powerful clubs in the world. Yet while their brands are instantly recognisable across all continents, they both face significant challenges in the years ahead when their star players, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, come to the end of their careers. Although the timing is uncertain, Barça and Real may have to invest to ensure there are succession plans in place.”

Language Familiarity Important for American Success

In a finding suggesting that language familiarity is important for the success of foreign soccer leagues in the US market, the report shows significant American interest in soccer leagues played in countries which primarily speak either English or Spanish. 82% of American consumers report awareness of the US domestic league, Major League Soccer, narrowly ahead of the 77% of the English Premier League. The Spanish La Liga, which counts both Barcelona and Real Madrid amongst its teams, was the third-most popular league with 65% of American fans aware of it, just ahead of the second-tier of English soccer, the English Championship League (54%). The top level of German (49%) and Italian (42%) leagues were further back, just ahead of the Mexican (41%) soccer league, which is largely unknown outside North America.

Premier Power

While the strength of Barça and Real’s brands, built on consistent success and global appeal, is undeniable, the two clubs, in terms of brand value, still trail Manchester United by a significant margin. Placed at the head of the table again this year, United’s brand value of USD 1,895 million is more than USD 300 million higher than that of either Real or Barça.

View the full list of the world’s most valuable soccer brands here.

Manchester United’s brand strength improved on 2017 by 3% and their brand value grew by 9%. After last year’s exile in the UEFA Europa League, United’s brand strength was enhanced by two trophies and a return to the Champions League this season. Like all Premier League clubs, United benefit from extraordinary broadcasting revenues, but the club’s commercial revenues, totalling USD 390 million in 2017, are far greater than domestic and most international rivals.

The composition of this year’s league table reflects the undoubted commercial power of the Premier League with 18 teams in the top 50 and six in the first 10. Premier League clubs enjoy elevated status due to broadcasting, which accounts for 60% of all revenues and, in some cases, contributes more than 90% of club income. In terms of matchday revenues, however, many of the Premier clubs have modest income, largely due to stadium size. Even prominent clubs like Chelsea and Tottenham have had restrictive home grounds that should be remedied with the construction of new stadiums. Outside of the United Kingdom, the Premier enjoys very healthy levels of awareness – 69% – in the growth markets polled by Brand Finance.

Bryn Anderson, Director at Brand Finance, commented:

“The English Premier League remains the most visible and most intensely marketed football league worldwide, hence its heavy presence in the Brand Finance Football 50. Although all member clubs benefit from strong broadcasting revenues and high levels of stadium utilisation, there is a huge gulf between the very top and the rest of the league. Furthermore, the reliance on broadcasting creates some vulnerability for the clubs and the challenge will be to successfully introduce a more balanced revenue mix in the future.”

Corporate Backing

Meanwhile, many American businesses are engaging with soccer on a global level, with a number of American corporate brands serving as the primary shirt sponsor of various top soccer clubs in Europe. Chevrolet sponsors the shirt of the world’s most valuable soccer brand Manchester United. Fellow car brand, Jeep, sponsors Italian club Juventus FC, which increased its brand value 23% to USD 604 million this year.

Highlighting the power and reach of United’s brand, Chevrolet enjoys a similar level of fan awareness (30%) across the USA, China, and India to the top scoring corporate sponsor – Emirates Airlines (32%), whose logo appears on the shirts of not one but four leading clubs: Real Madrid (USD 85 million annually), Arsenal (USD 42 million), PSG (USD 31 million), and AC Milan (20 million).

Bryn Anderson, Director at Brand Finance, commented:

“The current Brand Finance Football 50 reflects the evolution of the modern soccer business paradigm with clubs the beneficiaries of strong marketing, globalisation, and the enduring popularity of the world’s top sport. But for growth trajectories to maintain their momentum, all top clubs need to continue broadening their global footprint, forming relationships and revenue generating opportunities in growth markets, such as the USA.”

Muscle in Munich

A positive feeling is something that has been associated with Germany’s Bundesliga for some years, thanks to accessible ticket pricing and high levels of supporter engagement. Bayern Munich continue to lead the way with serial title wins, the sixth consecutive success being achieved in 2017-18. The Bundesliga remains the best supported soccer league in the world, with crowds averaging over 44,500 per game. Bayern generate higher commercial revenues than any other club globally, some USD 419 million in 2017. Bayern rise to fourth in this year’s ranking in terms of brand strength and also improved brand value by 15% to USD 1,406 million.

The Bundesliga provides 13 clubs in the top 50, but the gulf between Bayern and Germany’s other representatives is significant. The closest club to Bayern is Borussia Dortmund, the world’s best supported in terms of matchday attendances, with a brand value of USD 587 million, followed by Schalke 04, at USD 385 million.


Interestingly, a recently established club, RB Leipzig (RBL) is the fastest-growing brand in the 2018 list. The club’s brand value is up by 140% to USD 348 million. In brand strength, RBL are ranked 16th, up from 45th position. RBL’s presence is not only a reflection of success on the field – second place in the Bundesliga in 2016-17 and a debut in the UEFA Champions League – but also evidences the sponsorship backing of Red Bull. The RBL story captures the zeitgeist of the modern game, but this fledgling club is still a considerable distance from established soccer institutions like Bayern Munich.

If RBL represents the new breed, PSG are several years into the project that started with the acquisition by Qatar Sports Investments. Yet PSG lost 10% in brand value, dropping below the USD 1 billion mark, and brand strength was unchanged at 83.1. Once again, they under-achieved in the UEFA Champions League, but the 2017-18 campaign saw the club regain the Ligue 1 crown. Although PSG remains the most successful French soccer club with a team that now includes Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, the implications of a possible breach of Financial Fair Play rules may impact their brand strength in the future.

Like PSG in France, Juventus remain significantly ahead of the competition in Italy. Juve’s brand value rose by 23% to USD 605 million, thanks to a run to the Champions League final in 2017 and continued domestic success. Juve’s bold rebrand affected the club’s brand strength this year (down 2% to 88.9) as fans in Italy and elsewhere are still getting used to the club’s new visual identity.


Note to Editors

Every year, leading valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance values the world’s biggest brands. The 50 most valuable soccer club brands in the world are included in the Brand Finance Football 50 2018 league table.

For a visual summary of findings, view the Brand Finance Football 50 infographic.

Additional insights, charts, and tables on the most valuable and strongest soccer club brands, sponsorship analysis, and fan engagement market research in the emerging soccer markets of China, India, and the USA, as well as methodology and definitions of key terms are available in the Brand Finance Football 50 2018 report.

Brand value is equal to a net economic benefit that a brand owner would achieve by licensing the brand. Brand strength is used to determine what proportion of a business’s revenue is contributed by the brand.

Data compiled for the Brand Finance league tables and reports are provided for the benefit of the media and are not to be used for any commercial or technical purpose without written permission from Brand Finance.

Media Contacts

Penny Erricker
Communications Executive
Brand Finance

About Brand Finance

Brand Finance is the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy. Bridging the gap between marketing and finance for more than 25 years, Brand Finance evaluates the strength of brands and quantifies their financial value to help organizations 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 over 100 reports which rank brands across all sectors and countries.

Brand Finance also operates the Global Brand Equity Monitor, conducting original market research annually on over 5,000 brands, surveying more than 150,000 respondents across 38 countries and 31 industry sectors. Combining perceptual data from the Global Brand Equity Monitor with data from its valuation database enables Brand Finance to arm brand leaders with the data and analytics they need to enhance brand and business value.

Brand Finance is a regulated accountancy firm, leading the standardization 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.

Definition of Brand

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

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 Valuation Approach

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.

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