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Real Madrid and Barcelona neck-and-neck as world’s most valuable football brands

29 July 2020
This article is more than 3 years old.

· Real Madrid remain world’s most valuable football brand, but Barcelona narrow the gap to just €6 million

· COVID-19 causes total brand value of top 50 clubs to decrease for the first time in 6 years – €751 million or 3.7% is knocked off

· English clubs dominate the ranking with six brands in top 10 and 19 in top 50

· Liverpool inches two spots up into 4th place, following historic Premier League win

· Bundesliga’s 1. FC Köln is this year’s fastest-growing brand, followed by Leicester City and RB Leipzig – all recording over 40% growth

· Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium takes top spot in Buro Happold’s Venue Performance Rating

See the preview or purchase the Brand Finance Football Annual 2020 here

Join Declan Ahern, Valuation Director at Brand Finance, Hugo Hensley, Senior Consultant at Brand Finance, and Andy Pottinger, Director at Buro Happold, as they discuss the findings of the latest Brand Finance Football Annual in our webinar on 5th August 2020.

Real Madrid remain the most valuable football club brand in the world for 2020, according to the latest edition of the Brand Finance Football Annual. Boosted by winning the LaLiga title for the first time since 2017, the club retained its position at the top of the table in the football industry, but against a backdrop of economic and social disruption, caused primarily by the COVID-19 pandemic, Real Madrid’s brand value has declined by 14% to €1,419 million.

Real Madrid’s disappointing on-pitch performance prior to 2019-20, which saw an earlier-than-normal exit from the UEFA Champions League in 2018-19 and a second successive season adrift of LaLiga champions Barcelona, eroded the club’s dominance of the Brand Finance ranking. The situation was exacerbated by COVID-19, along with a lack of stability around the management of the team. Barcelona, Real’s fierce rivals, are just €6 million behind Real with a brand value of €1,413 million, supported by strong and diverse revenue generation and continued domestic performance in Spain.

COVID-19 knocks off €751 million of brand value

Real Madrid is not the only club to see a drop in brand value this year. COVID-19 has caused the total value of the top 50 football brands to decrease for the first time in 6 years. Through its effect on the three main revenue streams – Matchday, Broadcasting, and Commercial – €751 million or 3.7% has been knocked off the cumulative brand value of the world’s top 50 most valuable football clubs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged professional football worldwide and across all levels. Matchday income for the 501 games remaining in the big 5 leagues dropped to zero, but it is often the smaller clubs and leagues which are more reliant on this revenue stream – in Scotland it makes up 43% of total revenue, compared to only 13% in England.

There have been some positive signs, as Southampton vs Manchester City on BBC broke the Premier League TV audience record with 5.7 million viewers, but the longer-term damage to the game’s economic structure has yet to be revealed.

Richard Haigh, Managing Director of Brand Finance, commented:

“Top-level football has been confronted with the largest existential threat since the Second World War. Loss of income, coupled with health concerns about mass gatherings, have raised question marks about the future of the industry and the financial resilience of clubs across all levels. The full damage of the COVID-19 crisis has yet to unfold and it is not inconceivable there will be casualties in the form of club bankruptcies and changes in ownership.”

Despite the huge implications of COVID-19 for football clubs and their financial results, the majority of the brand value is secured by the clubs’ long-term future – provided they can survive the initial shock. For example, only 21% of Real Madrid’s brand value is delivered by the next five years’ financial results.

Premier power

Real Madrid and Barcelona are followed by a cluster of English Premier League clubs in the Brand Finance Football Annual 2020 ranking, with Manchester United in 3rd position after their brand value fell by 11% to €1,314 million. Liverpool, who won their first league title since 1990 in runaway style, are in 4th spot jumping above Manchester City in terms of brand value, rising from €1,191 million in 2019 to €1,262 million, a 6% increase. Chelsea dropped one place in the table to 8th after their value fell for the fourth consecutive year to €949 million. This was arguably due to the club being absent from the UEFA Champions League and also suffering a transfer ban after being charged with breaking Financial Fair Play Regulations.

Healthy attendances and high levels of broadcasting revenue earlier in the season had a positive effect on other Premier League clubs. Leicester City’s brand value is up by 44% to €333 million, while Chinese-owned Wolverhampton Wanderers, with their biggest crowds in 50 years are 30% higher at €242 million.

Conversely, some Premier League clubs have experienced a sizeable drop in their brand value, such as Bournemouth (-31%), Watford (-21%), and West Ham United (-18%). One of the biggest fallers is Arsenal, who have lost 19% and are seeing their place in the top 10 in some jeopardy, finishing outside the Premier League top 6 for the first time in 25 years. After going through a period of discontent during the latter years of the Arsene Wenger era, Arsenal have struggled to regain their position as a Champions League club, which has started to be reflected in their revenues and bottom line.

Continued dominance in Germany, France, and Italy

Bayern Munich, who remain Germany’s footballing powerhouse, are the 6th most valuable club. Bayern, one of the most proficient clubs in the world at generating commercial income, now has a brand value of €1,056 million, 20% lower than a year ago.

Despite the drop, Bayern are the clear leader among ten German clubs in the top 50 and their brand value is more than double their nearest challengers, Borussia Dortmund (down 9% to €487 million). While most Bundesliga clubs’ value is lower this year, 1. FC Köln is buking the trend to become the fastest growing in the whole top 50 (+47%), followed closely by RB Leipzig (+43%). Köln are now reaping the benefits of being back in German’s top-flight and Leipzig are continuing their growth trajectory and gaining a reputation for player development.

Bayern’s dominance in Germany is matched by Paris Saint-Germain in France, although European success still eludes the club backed by Qatar Sports Investments. At €967 million and ranked 7th overall, PSG’s brand value, like their playing budget and transfer market capability, is substantially higher than their Ligue 1 opponents. Lyon, the next highest-placed French club in 30th spot, has a brand value that is less than one-fifth of the PSG total. The third French club to make the list is Marseille, ranked 38th.

Juventus, Italy’s leading club, remain outside the top 10, but the margin between 11th and 10th has reduced by over €100 million. At the same time, the gap between Juventus and the 12th club, Borussia Dortmund, has increased by more than €100 million. Juve’s domestic rivals are not closing in on them either. Inter Milan, the second highest placed Serie A club, failed to grow and AC Milan’s ongoing lacklustre performance is contributing to a 35% loss in their brand value.

The Bundesliga, Ligue 1, and Serie A do not have the same level of global reach of the Premier League and LaLiga, as confirmed in Brand Finance research among football fans in the US and China, two fast-emerging nations in the sport. While the Premier League and LaLiga are watched in both countries, the Bundesliga has a growing following in China, but is substantially behind both English and Spanish football. Serie A and Ligue 1 have a lot of ground to make up in building their global franchises.

Unsurprisingly, the top five leagues dominate the brand rankings with only four clubs in the top 50 from a league other than England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. The highest-placed club from outside that group is the Netherlands’ Ajax (27th), followed by Portugal’s Benfica (46th), Celtic of Scotland (48th), and Russia’s Zenit St. Petersburg (49th).

Resilient brand strength

Aside from calculating overall brand value, Brand Finance also determines the relative strength of brands through a balanced scorecard of metrics evaluating marketing investment, stakeholder equity, and business performance. Along with the level of revenues, brand strength is a crucial driver of brand value.

Despite the economic backdrop, club brand strengths have remained robust, with half of the top 50 growing in the past year. Real Madrid continue to have the strongest brand with a rating of 94.9 and their Spanish rivals Barca are in second position with 93.6 – both slightly down on 2019. Liverpool move above Premier stablemates Manchester United to become the strongest Premier League brand with a rating of 93.2. Valencia and 1.FC Köln, with increases of +10.5 and +8.3 points respectively, recorded the highest rates of growth.

Enterprise values and stadia performance

Having retained their place as the most valuable and strongest brand in football, Real Madrid have also retained the top spot for the most valuable business in the industry, with an enterprise value of €4,198 million. A notable improvement in enterprise value is that of Tottenham Hotspur who climbed to 9th in the ranking with a value of €2,114 million off the back of posting record breaking profits largely as a result of a strong Champions League run in 2019 and increased gate receipts from the new stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur have also risen from 4th to be this year’s title winners for stadium performance, according to Buro Happold’s Venue Performance Rating system. A major factor in this success were a number of experiential and revenue-generating features – such as a Tunnel Club, Sky Lounge, micro-brewery, 360-degree concourses, and safe-standing capability, among others.

Last year’s winner, Real Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, slips to 5th, primarily because it scores so poorly with regard to the aforementioned features, and this is clearly a reason why the stadium is undergoing renovation. Nonetheless, 5th is still a huge achievement, and is attained by strong performances in several areas – such as metrics corresponding to acoustics, compactness, and location.

Andy Pottinger, Director at Buro Happold, commented:

“Buro Happold launched the Venue Performance Rating system last year when it appeared in the Brand Finance Football Annual 2019, and it is now used again as part of the brand assessment for the largest 50 clubs in Europe. The aim has always been to introduce ‘stadium science’, inspired by how ‘sports science’ has transformed the way in which clubs appraise players.”


Note to Editors

Every year, the world’s leading independent brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance values 5,000 of the world’s biggest brands. The latest ranking of the 50 most valuable football club brands is included in the Brand Finance Football Annual 2020.

The 150-page long second edition of the Brand Finance Football Annual features detailed club profiles and provides in-depth analysis on football club brand values, brand strength, enterprise values, sponsorship effectiveness, league reputation, stadia performance, and the role of esports. It includes special contributions by LaLiga, PSG, and ABSA, among others. The Annual builds on the findings of the Brand Finance Football 50 study on the world’s most valuable and strongest football club brands, and includes the methodology and results of the Buro Happold Venue Performance Rating framework.


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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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