The brand United

Manchester United have been rated the eighth most valuable sports brand in the world in a new study which for the first time has assessed the comparative worths of 200 brands across the sporting spectrum” (Guardian.co.uk 18 June 2009)

My mind goes back to being a small kid growing up in Manchester and being aware even then of the of how ahead of the game (no pun intended) Manchester United were in recognising the power of the brand. ‘The Red Devils’ and ‘The Busby Babes’ were already enjoying the benefits of a strong brand identity. It is easy now for fans of other clubs to dislike the success that the team and brand has had – unlike many other brands, loyalty does not engendered competitive polarisation: because I drive a Volvo it does not breed hostility to BMW drivers… nor because I shop at Sainsbury’s would I chant at Tesco shoppers (you only sing at the checkouts…). But that is the nature of sport – it is competitive. I have often usd the example of football clubs when explaining and discussing brand identities and their assets. Names, colours, badges, nicknames, songs and locations are all the trappings of identity – and importantly they are a means by which supporters define their own identities.

It is interesting to consider how the brand values of a team can transcend the issues and internecine struggles of brand stakeholders. It’s similarly interesting to reflect on how even the managerial failings of Woolworth’s owners and it’s ultimate demise could not fully erase the customers’ emotional connections and empathy. It is another example of how emotional investment in a brand can transcend the pragmatic understanding.

United are valued at $1.495bn: the valuation and the table was compiled by SportsPro Magazine. I’m not sure what methodology of brand valuation was used, but I’m sure that if a model based upon brand profile investment was used it would reinforce the power of United’s early recognition of the importance of the brand.

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