While established clubs abroad dominate its value rankings, Brand Finance says a UAE club could make the top 50 in the longer term. The company sees a potential for the region’s clubs and says a place among the elite for Al Ain could come within five or so years.
Here, Abu Dhabi-based Andrew Campbell, the managing director of Brand Finance Middle East, talks about the UAE’s football landscape and the wider world of football brands.
How does the future of UAE football look regarding potential brand values?
We think the outlook is positive. There are many challenges, which include competition for fan interest from European leagues, the embryonic nature of the footballing culture [in the UAE] which affects match day attendances – particularly if performances have been mediocre or poor – as well as relatively low local populations and high numbers of transitory workers (or expatriates) who may be less inclined to become passionate supporters of a local team.
Are there signs of improvement?
The picture is beginning to change and clubs such as Al Ain have put in place a number of measures to engage with domestic audiences and the local community to build loyalty, stimulate interest and ultimately increase matchday and commercial revenue. It is also stimulating interest across the GCC and worldwide through a range of partnerships. The first of these is with their sponsors, such as Nike, which are global brands and so have an international reach.
How will Al Ain widen awareness of the club?
Etihad, the Abu Dhabi Airports Company and the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Authority will spread awareness of Al Ain abroad and channel curious tourists and international fans the club’s way.
What other Emirates’ clubs are on the radar?
So far, of the UAE’s clubs, Brand Finance has only calculated a specific brand valuation for Al Ain.
How much is the Al Ain football club brand worth?
Its exact value is confidential at this point, however it is rising rapidly. Although it is some way off the top 50 at the moment, entry in the next five to 10 years is not unrealistic.
Given that Manchester United top this year’s list despite not having won any silverware, to what extent do the relative performances of teams affect their brand values and how does that manifest itself in the real world?
There can be a significant uplift to brand value as the result of performance in a particular season. Part of the reason for Manchester United’s recovery and stellar growth this year is because the club was able to secure Champion’s league football for next season. Admittedly it didn’t win anything, but this was a significant improvement on last year.
What commercial benefits does a cup final win bring?
Significant wins can help boost brand value for that year. With Barca wining the Champions League final, that one game added US$28 million to the brand value. Arsenal’s FA cup win netted only a $1m windfall, reflecting the declining prestige of that tournament.
What about the downside of a poor season?
At the opposite end of the table relegation is extremely costly. Dropping out of the English Premier League for example has a devastating effect. The club will lose the huge broadcast revenues, suffer a significant reduction in attendance and usually ticket prices. Sponsorship income will also fall due to the reduced prestige, which hits brand strength, and the comparative invisibility of sponsor logos.
To what extent can a club’s brand power insulate it from a bad season?
Part of the benefit of having a strong brand is that it helps to weather the ups and downs of performance. That is why Manchester United has managed to maintain sponsor interest and sustain its vast revenue during this comparatively disappointing period. Barca and Real have very strong brands that would also survive a couple of bad seasons relatively intact. The challenge for them, Barca in particular, is to focus on the commercial side and monetise the brand more effectively.
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