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Expo 2020 Dubai biggest driver as UAE jumps five places in Brand Finance Global Soft Power Index 2023

17 April 2023
This article is more than 1 year old.
  • UAE moves into the Global Soft Power Index top 10 and is the fastest growing Soft Power nation within the top 20
  • Expo 2020 Dubai contributed $20.6 billion of uplift to the UAE’s Nation Brand Value
  • Trust and attractiveness are vital to UAE’s reputation, helped by hosting this mega-event
  • Expo 2020 Dubai contributed to the Nation Brand Strength uplift, as well as the Nation Brand Value increase to $957 billion
  • Expo City Dubai to play an important legacy role as an international venue and destination for learning and business

London, 17th April 2023 – Hosting a successful World Expo significantly boosted the UAE’s soft power position, propelling it into the top 10 countries in the Brand Finance Global Soft Power Index 2023 for the first time. The UAE jumped five places in the Index, with its Soft Power Score increasing by 3.2 points, with Expo 2020 Dubai driving 61.2% (2pts) of the gain.


Held from October 2021 – March 2022, Expo 2020 Dubai was the world's first major event coming out of the pandemic, and it made an instant impact with over 24 million in-person visitors, 30% of whom came from overseas, and over 250 million 'virtual visitors'. With more than 192 nations participating, it was the most inclusive event in World Expo history, and the impact wasn't fleeting, according to Brand Finance, a global brand evaluation consultancy.

Expo 2020's effect is still being felt, with impressive gains seen across multiple dimensions in the Brand Finance Global Soft Power Index 2023. The consultancy's research, cross-referenced with unique survey data collected before, during, and after the Expo, provides concrete evidence of its enduring influence.

In total, research found that Expo 2020 resulted in a $20.6 billion boost to the UAE’s Nation Brand Value. Expo 2020 put the UAE on a global stage at a time when the world had seemingly changed on its axis because of the pandemic. The boldness and optimism of its core theme – ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,’ - provided a direct contrast to the anxiety created by the global epidemic. Hosting Expo 2020 showcased the ability to positively influence global decision makers whilst improving perceptions amongst the general public and other global institutions as a result of hosting such an innovative and inclusive event.  

New research from Brand Finance found that the ambition and reach of the event directly correlated into perceptual pillars of ‘Familiarity’, ‘Business and Trade’, ‘Governance’, ‘International Relations’ and ‘People & Values’. Amongst the most impacted perceptual elements were ‘trustworthiness’, ‘easy to do business with’ and being ‘helpful to other countries in need’. All these metrics clearly aligned with the Expo 2020 initial objectives to reposition Dubai and the UAE on the world map as a main player from a trade, business, diplomatic and human perspective, focusing on both perceptions of the general public, as well as business and diplomatic circles.

Speaking at the end of the six-month event, Dimitri Kerkentzes, Secretary General of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), said that Expo 2020 Dubai had “raised the bar” for World Expos and would continue to have a positive, lasting impact for many years to come.

How Expo 2020 contributed to UAE’s rise in Nation Brand Value and Soft Power

UAE Nation Brand Value uplift contribution. 11.2% ($20.6 billion) of the rise in the UAE’s Nation Brand Value from $773billion in 2022 to $957 billion in 2023 was driven by Expo 2020. Overall, this has aided UAE’s rank in the Brand Finance Nation Brands Report 2023, from 17th to 16th.

UAE Nation Brand Strength uplift contribution. UAE’s Brand Strength in the Nation Brands Report 2023 increased from 76.7/100 to 78.4/100. Expo 2020 was responsible for 63.8% (1.1pts) of the total increase.

Forecast GDP Uplift. The 2023 forecasted uplift in GDP is equivalent to 2.2% of total GDP ($10.2 billion uplift compared to total of $7 billion construction investment and costs).

Soft Power Index uplift contribution. UAE’s Soft Power Score in the Brand Finance Global Soft Power Index 2023 increased by 3.2pts from 52.0/100, and Expo 2020 was responsible for 61.2% (2pts) of this increase. This propelled UAE’s overall rank forward by 5 spots, pushing it into the top 10.

The UAE has made it to the Top 10 of the Brand Finance Global Soft Power Index for the first time in the 2023 iteration, driven by a global survey with more than 100,000 participants. Additionally, out of the top 18 countries ranked, the UAE showed the most improvement in its ranking and was second only to the USA in terms of an increase in absolute points.

David Haigh, CEO & Chairman of Brand Finance plc, commented:

“Perceptions drive behaviour. The Brand Finance Global Soft Power Index is the world's largest study of soft power perceptions, and this research is proving extremely helpful to government policymakers, and destination marketing organisations to develop their policies and develop their campaigns.”

The legacy of Expo 2020 Dubai will continue in Expo City Dubai – the legacy site of the event, which has emerged as a blueprint for sustainable urban development, attracting visitors, commercial tenants and residents. It also supports Dubai’s wider position as a global hub for talent, solutions and collaboration, where people can come together and solve the challenges the world is facing, exemplified again by the hosting COP28 later this year.


Brand Finance used pre-existing data for the UAE’s Soft Power standing as a base for the UAE’s performance pre-Expo. Brand Finance then conducted bespoke market research in a similar format to the Global Soft Power Index to calculate the contribution of Expo to the UAE’s and Dubai’s 2023 performance in the Index. A similar approach was used to estimate the impact that Expo 2020 had on Dubai’s perceptions.

Media Contacts

Penny Erricker
Communications Executive
Brand Finance

Note to Editors

Soft power is defined as a nation’s ability to influence the preferences and behaviours of various actors in the international arena (states, corporations, communities, publics etc.) through attraction or persuasion rather than coercion.

Full ranking, methodology, charts, commentary, expert contributions, and in-depth spotlights with interviews on many countries are available in the Global Soft Power Index report.

Data and materials prepared for Brand Finance’s reports and events 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.

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About Brand Finance          

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 25 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 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.

About the Global Soft Power Index by Brand Finance

For over 15 years, Brand Finance has been publishing the annual Nation Brands report – a study into the world’s 100 most valuable and strongest nation brands. Focusing on the financial value and strength of nation brands, the Brand Finance Nation Brands study is based on publicly available information, including data compiled by third parties for other indices and rankings.

Building on this experience, Brand Finance has now produced the Global Soft Power Index – the world’s most comprehensive research study on perceptions of 100 nation brands from around the world. The Global Soft Power Index is based on the most wide-ranging fieldwork of its kind, surveying the general public as well as specialist audiences, with responses gathered from over 100,000 people from across the world. The Global Soft Power Index report is the annual iteration of this study.

Global Soft Power Index Methodology

Two surveys are conducted, both global in scope:

  • General Public – a survey of public opinion covering over 100,000 residents representing all continents and regions of the world
  • Specialist Audiences – the views of hundreds of experts from dozens of countries – representing categories identified as likely targets and conduits for soft power: business leaders, market analysts, politicians, academics, think-tanks and NGOs, and journalists.

The Global Soft Power Index incorporates a broad range of measures, which in combination provide a balanced and holistic assessment of nations’ presence, reputation, and impact on the world stage.

The Index gives a 90% weighting to the views of the General Public and 10% to those of Specialist Audiences

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