The annual report published by Brand Finance Plc gives United a brand valuation of 412 million pounds ($644 million), up 11 percent from last year. Real, which has a policy of signing some soccer’s biggest names like Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, has a brand estimated to be worth 401 million pounds, with European champion Barcelona third at 392 million pounds.
United’s strength has been underpinned by its success on the field, where it’s won the Premier League in four of the last five seasons, and the results of a commercial division that enjoyed an annual increase of 27 percent to top 100 million pounds for the first time. Earlier this month the team announced a sponsorship agreement for its training apparel worth 40 million pounds with logistics company DHL.
“The commercial team at United have developed such a compelling and well-protected brand that global partners are willing to pay premium sums to be affiliated with the champions,” said Brand Finance, which advises companies like brewer SABMiller Plc and bank Standard Chartered Plc. “In the upcoming IPO, we would expect the brand strength of United to feature prominently in the investment story.”
United is planning to raise $1 billion later this year by floating as much as 30 percent of the club in an IPO on the Singapore stock exchange.
While United may have a stronger brand than Real, the team owned by the U.S.-based Glazer family isn’t making the most money. It’s behind both Real and Barcelona in terms of revenue, according to a list published by accountant Deloitte LLP in February. Real last week announced record sales of 480 million euros ($654 million), more than any other team in professional sport. United had revenue of 331.4 million pounds, according to a Sept. 1 filing.

Most Improved

Brand Finance said the most improved soccer brand in the past 12 months is United’s cross-town rival Manchester City. The team owned by billionaire Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has lavished millions of pounds on talent to make it a contender at home and abroad and has qualified for Europe’s lucrative Champions League for the first time.
In August, City signed the biggest partnership deal in sport, a decade-long agreement worth more than 350 million pounds with Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad. The report ranks City 11th, up from 19th, with a brand value that’s almost doubled to 106 million pounds.
City’s rise can be attributed to a combination of “huge sponsorship deals, star signings, Champions League football and a first trophy in 35 years,” the report said.

Top Ten

Bayern MunichGermany’s richest and most successful team, is fourth on the list, ahead of London teams Chelsea and Arsenal. The Italian trio of AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus and Liverpool complete the top ten. The total brand value of all 30 teams is worth 1.5 billion pounds, according to the report.
Still, that figure “alone has little immediate application to football clubs,” according to Brand Finance. Clubs must invest in “servicing the brand” if they are to monetize the strength of the brand. Manchester United’s commercial division has grown from two to more than 40 since the Glazers bought the team in 2005.
“Within the branding industry they are not doing anything unique,” Dave Chattaway, one of the report’s authors said in an interview. “They are just taking best practice from companies like Apple, Prada, heavily branded industries and bringing it into the sports industry.”
The report, which is in its 6th edition, defined “brand” as the teams’ trademarks and intellectual property. Of the team’s that make up the top 30, Brand Finance has undertaken paid consultancy work for Manchester United and Portugal’s Benfica.
Top 30 clubs by brand value (millions of pounds):
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1. Manchester United 412
2. Real Madrid 401
3. Barcelona 392
4. Bayern Munich 308
5. Chelsea 196
6. Arsenal 188
7. AC Milan 170
8. Inter Milan 164
9. Liverpool 156
10. Juventus 115
11. Manchester City 106
12. FC Schalke 84
13. Hamburg 84
14. Tottenham 79
15. Borussia Dortmund 78
16. Lyon 76
17. Marseille 74
18. Roma 63
19. Atletico Madrid 55
20. Stuttgart 51
21. Valencia 50
22. Bordeaux 48
23. Ajax 46
24. Napoli 43
25. Aston Villa 43
26. Werder Bremen 42
27. Everton 38
28. Benfica 36
29. Fiorentina 35
30. Lazio 34

Tariq Panja in London at [email protected]