Manchester City, the runaway winner of the English Premier League, is targeting East Asia to enlarge its fan base after returning to the top five of the most valuable brands in football.
Club officials said that Japan, China and India were emerging as key markets in its attempts to build a global brand. The City Football Group has acquired holdings in clubs in the US, Australia, Uruguay, Japan and Spain and run academies in China and Singapore.
The club, taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment in 2008, has won the English Premier League three times in the last seven seasons.
“Whilst Abu Dhabi is at the heart of everything we do, the group, as well as the sponsors of Manchester City, in particular, Etihad Airways, is more interested in stories we can tell around the world, such as in China,” said chief marketing officer Nurria Tarré at a seminar on Tuesday.
The club has become the first Premier League side to set up a professional eSports team in China to play the popular online football game Fifa to broaden its appeal among young people.
Bryn Anderson, director of consultancy Brand Finance which compiled the Football 50 report for 2018, told the seminar said that the Chinese market was becoming essential for Premier League clubs such as Manchester City. Chinese investors took a 13% stake in the club in 2016.
“The club is still establishing its position among European football’s elite band and its commercial potential has yet to be fully realised,” the consultancy’s report found.
Despite being overshadowed by the success on the pitch of its city neighbours, Manchester United retained its position at the top of the list, according to Brand Finance.
Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona followed Manchester United in the list followed by Bayern Munich, while City moved into the top five after seeing its brand value increase by 30 per cent to hit $1.33 billion in 2018. Premier League rival Chelsea, owned by Russian businessman Roman Abramovich, slipped three places to seventh.