How Manchester City was turned into a global brand overnight

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The case of Manchester City provides a unique window into the magical world of modern branding, where everything is possible for the right price.

Football brands are among the oldest in business and many of them enjoy loyalty that even Coca-Cola or Apple would be envious of. European powerhouses have been building their fan bases over decades, investing heavily in on-the-pitch product while treating their home grounds as sanctuaries where the faithful can congregate. However, it appears that the rise of globalized media brought new possibilities to football clubs, as one can find evidenced in the stellar financial success of Manchester City.

The club has a long tradition, but fell out of the national (and especially international) awareness due to long periods of complete irrelevance. This changed however after the club returned to Premier League status in the mid 2000’s and was purchased by the ‘Abu Dhabi United Group’ in 2008. Buoyed by unprecedented spending that included a then-record £100 million in transfers for top stars during the summer of 2009, Manchester City entered the main stage in style. An astronomic sponsorship deal with Etihad Airways worth around £400 million followed soon, covering stadium-naming rights and bringing even brighter spotlight on the club.

With an expensive team and a state-of-the-art stadium in place, Manchester City’s squad started doing what it was constructed to do – winning. Within just 4 years of the change of ownership, the team won one FA Cup and one Premier League title – the first in 44 years. This allowed the team executives to complement the old core of hard-line fans with millions of new supporters, many of which lived thousands of miles away from England. This was often achieved through the innovative use of contemporary marketing techniques. All this popularity quickly translated into earnings – according to a recent valuation by Forbes, Manchester City is currently the seventh most valuable brand in football, estimated at around £569 million in May 2014.

Not surprisingly, new sponsors are lining up to support the team. An executive from the Saigon Hanoi Commercial Joint Stock Bank, which recently became an official partner of the team, summed up the sentiment well: “Manchester City’s popularity and brand value in South East Asia has grown exponentially in recent years. Their success and playing style on the pitch has been embraced by millions of young up-and-coming football fans across the region, who aspire to watch beautiful attacking football.”

If Manchester City’s brand continues to grow with such vigor, the club could eventually become more valuable than its more famous city rival.

Did you know? Manchester United’s brand value decreased by 11% over the previous 12 months.

References: Forbes, Telegraph, Manchester City FC, Bleacher Report

Picture: Soccerbox

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