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U.K. Teams Spearhead Euro Soccer’s Licensing Surge into U.S.

“It’s only a matter of time before soccer becomes as big in the U.S. as it is abroad.”

It’s an admonishment I’ve heard all my life. But I haven’t given it much credence—until recently. I doubt soccer will ever overtake football, baseball or hoops in popularity. But I do think the gap may be starting to close. Exhibit A is the incredible growth in soccer-branded merchandise hitting the shelves of U.S. stores of late.

European Clubs Lead the Way

Although national teams and the U.S. Major Soccer League (MLS) are in the mix, the real growth in soccer licensing is coming from European “football” clubs. Among the literally hundreds of clubs across the continent, the business of selling licensed goods in the U.S. is dominated by a handful of clubs from the top divisions of five countries:

  1. U.K. (EPL—English Premier League)
  2. Spain (Primera Division)
  3. Germany (Bundesliga)
  4. France (Ligue 1)
  5. Italy (Serie A)

Unlike MLS teams in the U.S. which license through the league, European club teams handle their own licensing. These clubs have set out to expand their brand not just at home but in the U.S. and other foreign markets.

The British Are Coming!

English teams are at the forefront of the expansion. EPL clubs occupy five of the top 10 slots of The Brand Finance Football 50 ranking of European soccer brands (see the Chart below for the Top 25). Topping the list is Manchester United, which this year became the world’s first billion dollar soccer brand with brand value of $1.2 billion. Manu’s licensing revenues actually declined 10% in the last quarter to $12.5 million. But the loss was an aberration resulting from the club’s transition from Nike to Adidas under a new partnership agreement that guarantees the club $1.1 billion over 10 years, the richest in soccer and more than twice the $457 million Nike paid Manu under its 13-year deal.

Other leading EPL team brands include Manchester City ($800 million in brand value), Chelsea ($795 million), Arsenal ($703 million) and Liverpool ($577 million). The number 10 club on the Brand Finance list, Tottenham Hotspur, is the most recent to launch a North America licensing program, tabbing Fermata Partners to lead the effort. The early returns are impressive as earlier this year as the ‘Spurs became the first foreign soccer club to sign a license with Fanatics to sell team branded goods online in the U.S.

European club teams from outside the U.K. with active licensing programs in the U.S. include:

  • Bayern Munich, the German powerhouse whose deal with Bavarian neighbor Adidas reportedly pays more than the £30 million Chelsea gets from Puma and £29 million Arsenal gets from Adidas.
  • Real Madrid, which despite boasting an unrivalled record of success on the field, not to mention arguably the sport’s greatest superstar in Cristiano Ronaldo, has been unable to match Manu and Bayern in worldwide brand value. Looking to close the gap, this June, Real Madrid named LA-based Edge America Sports to expand its licensing program in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. The club is also developing a theme park in United Arab Emirates.
  • Paris-St. Germain, the French club whose recent U.S. deals include limited edition watches from Hublot and high quality porcelain collections from Maison Bernadaud.
25 Most Valuable Soccer Team Brands in the World
Data Source: The Brand Finance Football 50
Team Country Brand Value
(in millions, USD)
1 3 Manchester United England $1,206.00
2 1 Bayern Munich Germany $933.00
3 2 Real Madrid Spain $873.00
4 5 Manchester City England $800.00
5 7 Chelsea England $795.00
6 4 Barcelona Spain $773.00
7 6 Arsenal England $703.00
8 8 Liverpool England $577.00
9 10 Paris-St. Germain France $541.00
10 12 Tottenham Hotspur England $360.00
11 13 Juventus Italy $350.00
12 9 Borussia Dortmund Germany $326.00
13 11 Schalke Germany $302.00
14 11 AC Milan Italy $244.00
15 20 Everton England $228.00
16 24 West Ham United England $209.00
17 AS Monaco France $202.00
18 30 Southampton England $183.00
19 17 Galatasary AS Turkey $177.00
20 15 Internazionale Milan Italy $160.00
21 23 Aston Villa England $155.00
22 27 Newcastle United England $155.00
23 19 Club Atlético de Madrid Spain $151.00
24 21 SSC Napoli Spain $147.00
25 16 AFC Ajax Netherlands $145.00


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