This rank has again triggered a debate among the rest of the world (except for MU’s fans). In the normal course, the highest-priced club is one who should be the most successful one in the field and owns as many super-star player. Man United is the dominator of England with 12/18 Premier League Championship titles. However, they still runs behind Barca, Real Madrid or B. Munich in the continental scope. And with respect to the number of star-players, except for Rooney, is there any other real one playing for the Red Devil?
From the viewpoint of David Aaker, the leading American brand strategist, a strong brand is determined by having strong brand equity: high awareness, unique brand association, high perceived quality and numerous loyal customers.
Now let’s evaluate these criteria to gain the comprehensive insight of Man United’s real brand value. This may help to justify Man United’s top ranking rather making any judgement on intuitive “love” or “hate” sentiment base.
The prestige of Man United has expanded beyond the border of football in particular and sport in general. Nickname “MU” becomes familiar even with people who know nothing about football. Perhaps, there is hardly ever a club in the world that has such many well-known “sub-brands”: Man United has the Brand Archetype of the Red Devil to reflect their brand personality of being passionate for winning; Old Trafford Stadium is called “The Theater of Dreams” because people come there not to “watch” but to “enjoy” beautiful football of Man United; and there, players are both “scared” of and deeply respect their coach Sir Alex Ferguson whose nickname is the “Hair-dryer”. So, it’s unnecessary to question about this brand awareness.
Man United has a very strong and clear brand association. Man United wins the hearts of fans by the art-directed playing style – the charming football that people usually name it as Sexy-football. This brand essence of Man United is consistently maintained during a quarter of the century under the talented manager – Sir Alex and brilliant players. However, in the recent years, the sexy image of Red Devil is being partly fading. The current player generation is “good”, but they are likely far to be super-stars to remain the playing style which is strong to “suppress” rivals and is beautiful as “MU Style”. When Man United is still “breathing” through the old “lungs” of veterans like R. Giggs or P. Scholes, fans have reasons to worry about the identity sustainability of this club.
There will be many people saying that Man United is no longer in the level which help this brand to be extremely broadly popular. But we should note that Man United’s strength and attractiveness are partially fading but their brand essence stays the same. There is certainly a gap between “the real quality” and “the perceived quality” but it is not enough to cause a revolutionary change in its brand perception. In addition, customer perception (football audience) on the product (Man United) is quite emotional and it is mostly driven by the first impression. They fall in love with Man United brand because of their beautiful playing style and it’s hard to change this opinion unless there is a radical change in Man United brand mantra.
According to http://www.Bleacherreport, the sport statistics website, Man United is the club having the biggest fans in the world (Real Madrid and Barca follow respectively).
It is estimated that there were 650 million people in 212 countries watching the match of between Man United and Man City in Premier League at Etihad in the season 2011-2012. It is noticeable that the El Classico between Real Madrid and Barcelona (which the world media called “The match of the century”) was recorded with “only” 400 million watchers.
In Vietnam, there is no official statistics yet; however, if you ask any football cafés owner, you will see the Man United’s phenomenon. They wish all Man United’s matches were broadcast on Sunday (many people do not have enough money to use satellite TV of broadcaster K+, so they have to watch Premier League’s matches at cafés) so that their cafés would always be over-crowded. Many anti-fans may criticize that Man United has many “intermediary” fans. Loyal fan of “Red Devil” (certainly a huge number) can be uncomfortable with this comment but not Man United’s brand managers. Simply in addition to the loyal customers, a strong brand always has numerous intermediary fans (those who are easily effected by bandwagen effect). Many big clubs also want to have numerous intermediary fans (a kind of infrequent customers) but that is not the easy target.
Maybe you don’t like, or even hate Man United, but you cannot resist the fact that this sport world may be less colorful and less exciting if one day the Red Devil is no longer among the top club. Life is not perfect. So is Man United. However, for many people, they love this club not because it is perfect but because they are simply Manchester United.