Manchester United: The Most Dominant Brand in U.S. Sports

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British Invasion 2.0

Over the last decade dozens of British-based soccer teams have spent millions of dollars in an effort to develop strong fan bases in the U.S.  Teams regularly play multiple games in the U.S. during the summer as part of a pre-season tour. Other teams, like Chelsea and Liverpool, have formed partnerships with top U.S. youth soccer clubs. In doing so they assure that their team name, logo and colors will be prominently displayed by top youth players at elite soccer tournaments (like the Disney Showcase or the Nike Cup) all across the country as players from these clubs become brand ambassadors every time they take the pitch. Still other teams have attempted to build a strong brand presence in the U.S. by launching online club stores specifically designed for their U.S. based fans.

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The Most Dominant Sports Brand in the U.S.?

As the above chart demonstrates, all of these efforts have been minimally effective in dislodging Manchester United’s brand dominance in the U.S. Recent data collected by SBRnet found that ManU remains over 5 times more popular with U.S. soccer fans than any of their English Premier League counterparts. The next most popular EPL clubs in the U.S. are Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham (in that order). All of their fans combined do not add up to Manchester United’s. Incredibly, 1 in 4 U.S. soccer  fans lists Manchester United as their favorite non-U.S. based team. This seems particularly remarkable given the efforts put forth by other teams to build brand equity in the U.S.  It is also surprising given the growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S. Traditionally Hispanics have supported teams from La Liga over other European clubs, yet only 2 such clubs made the the top 10 in the above research (Barcelona and Real Madrid). No other sports property comes close to dominating a sport here in the U.S. like Manchester United does soccer. Even the mighty New York Yankees do not dominate baseball the way Manchester United dominates soccer.

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What do you think?

Given Manchester United’s recent struggles on the field, do you think they will be able to hold such brand dominance in the U.S. in the decade to come?

Written by: Dr. Darin White

10 thoughts

  1. I don’t think Man U will be able to continue this dominance of the US market. Thanks to NBC’s massive rights deal with the EPL, BeIN Sports’ deal with La Liga, and Fox’s partnership with Bundesliga, more top-flight European clubs are gaining an unprecedented amount of consistent exposure in America. While the Red Devils have a huge head start, other clubs, especially those enjoying recent success, will soon see their fan bases grow in America and cut into United’s brand dominance.

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  2. No, I do not think they will be able to maintain such a large dominance. Soccer is growing in popularity in the United States and like all other sports, people like teams that win. If Manchester United can improve their performance and continue to dominate in marketing, then they have a chance. However, if they continue to struggle then I believe winning teams will take away their popularity. Also, leaps in technology and communication through social media will be a major factor in the future. These create new avenues for growing fan bases and maintaining relationships with them. It will be increasingly difficult for Manchester United to have dominance in all these areas. Other teams will have just as much access to fans as they do and competition will be fierce. This will make it very difficult for them to maintain a dominant brand in the United States.

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  3. This is a very interesting Topic. I can honestly say I don’t know very much about professional soccer, but I do know about Manchester United. For some reason they are just “that team” that EVERYONE knows. I believe there are many other Americans like me that don’t know much about soccer outside the US, so if they had to say a favorite team it would be Manchester United because they are the most recognized. Perhaps this is just becuase they have always been good, or maybe it’s just becuase they have always been marketed as good. I think Manchester United has marketed themselves as “The Team” in professional soccer much like The Cowboys have done with Professional football. However becuase the Cowboys have not been doing so well in the past decade thier marketing and brand name has declined a little bit. I believe that if Manchester United goes through a decade of poor porformances their brand recognization and popularity will decline as well.

    Jake Wilks

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  4. Unless another team dominates the competition or a star player that connects with the American fan base emerges, I would be surprised if Manchester United does not continue to dominant the U.S. fan base. As a Cubs fan, success of a team only matters so much once you have a tie to a team. With such a significant portion of the fan base for one team, I would be surprised to see it change that drastically toward one other team. Their weaker performance may spread out the support among more of the teams but is likely to still be dominant.

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  5. Although a winning record is critical, fans are loyal to Manchester United for many other reasons. Though other Premier League teams like Manchester City and Chelsea might also play well, Manchester United has enough brand recognition built up that it far surpasses its peers in popularity. It has a history of success, and a story of overcoming tragedy (the Munich airplane crash) that brought it world attention. With big-name sponsors like Chevrolet, Nike and DHL, United is well-established in the global marketplace. It will take a lot more than a few losses to knock them off their position at the top of the soccer fan world.

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  6. I do not know much about professional soccer, especially European soccer. However, while in London over Jan Term, I attended a Man U vs. QPR game at QPR’s Stadium. One of the reasons we decided to go to this game was because we had heard of Manchester United as it is a dominant brand in the US. I don’t think many Americans keep up with soccer the way Europeans do, so despite the team’s struggles, I believe that Man U will still have a pretty strong brand dominance primarily due to name recognition.

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  7. I would not consider myself a soccer fan, but I do know about Manchester United. I would say that their dominant brand will still continue, even if they are not performing the best on the field. I know this from experience from being an Ohio State fan that your team is your team and you stick with them through the wins and losses. I also believe that having sports stars like Wayne Rooney on their team that are well-known all around the world will help keep their brand dominance alive.

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  8. While not a die-hard soccer fan, I am well-versed in the sport and enjoy watching it while it’s on. With that being said, I feel as if ManU will continue to be a global presence, regardless of how they fare on the field. Much like the Montreal Canadians (hockey), or the Chicago Cubs (baseball), Manchester United has a large, loyal group of followers who will support the team regardless of their standings.

    This has been fostered through brand/name recognition and the club having a knack for signing top-tier/iconic soccer players. In the same way that Americans love football, Europeans love soccer equally. Obviously, if ManU goes a whole season with 2 wins,then they may lose support and be talked down upon, but likely, ticket sales and their ability to run an effective corporation would not instantly nose-dive.

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  9. I think that if ManU holds a poor record, it will struggle in regard to holding dominance. I’m not a professional at analyzing soccer, but It may be important that we take a look at other possible comparisons. Look at Nike for instance. If Nike does not keep coming out with the next new thing, believe it or not i feel as though it will fall even with regard to its fan base. The team may indeed hold a Pre-Season tour, however, to keep the title desirable, they will need to pull their score together.

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