x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Manchester City foray into MLS has 'phenomenal' brand potential

Business of sport: The Manchester City deal to establish a US Major League Soccer franchise has "phenomenal" brand potential according to top analysts.

Manchester City has teamed up with the New York Yankees to form New York City FC, which will be the league's 20th and is expected to begin playing by 2015. Above, the Manhattan skyline. Gary Hershorn / Reuters
Manchester City has teamed up with the New York Yankees to form New York City FC, which will be the league's 20th and is expected to begin playing by 2015. Above, the Manhattan skyline. Gary Hershorn / Reuters

The Manchester City deal to establish a US Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise has "phenomenal" brand potential, according to top analysts.

The English football club, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, has teamed up with the New York Yankees to form a new club in the MLS in New York. The new team, named New York City FC, will be the league's 20th and is expected to begin playing by 2015.

Manchester City is currently the world's ninth-richest football club according to Forbes, worth US$689 million, but the franchise's brand could develop and expand.

"The potential of the US and North America market is huge," said Kamal Dimachkie, the executive regional managing director at Leo Burnett UAE, Kuwait and Lower Gulf. "Football is growing as a sport and in popularity. It has huge potential for consumer growth, it could be phenomenal assuming that the brand knows how to connect with the populous there."

Real Madrid, the world's richest football club, was one of the first clubs to take its brand to a global level. The club is now worth $3.3 billion, according to Forbes. Real bought Cristiano Ronaldo, in part, to appeal to South American fans and David Beckham, who had a huge following in Europe and Asia.

"Real Madrid was the first club to look at becoming a global brand. Since then, Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona have tried and have had huge success," said John Brash, the founder and chief executive at Brash Brands. "As yet, no football club has looked at North America aggressively."

To be successful, Manchester City would need to engage with the local population and implant its culture and roots in a country where football is known as soccer and is not as popular as baseball or American football.

"If you look at the NFL [National Football League], the MLB [Major League Baseball], these are some of the biggest and most powerful sporting brands in the world that generate bags of cash and interest. The way these organisations have branded themselves is phenomenal, the players have become icons. No football team has done it yet [in the US] but the rewards could be huge," said Mr Brash.

He added that Manchester City has the advantage of its history, legacy and loyal fan base to help establish its brand in New York.

"The franchise gives Manchester City the same opportunity as any brand that expands when they go from one place to another and establish a presence and open up in a new market and to new consumers. It increases the potential for brand revenue and profit growth which therefore increase earnings," said Mr Dimachkie.

 

thamid@thenational.ae