Yankees, Man U most valuable team brands

Add another accolade to the Steinbrenner family trophy case. Their New York Yankees have dethroned Manchester United as the world’s most valuable team brand. It is the first time since we started tracking brand value – the portion of a team's overall value that is derived from its name as opposed to its market and league – across sports three years ago that the Bronx Bombers have topped our list.

The Yankees brand is worth $328 million (21 percent of their $1.6 billion total team value), while we calculate the Man U name to be worth $285 million (16 percent of their $1.835 billion value). The two teams swapped spots as the Yankees saw a merchandising frenzy thanks to a 27th World Series title and the opening of their new stadium. Gross sales of World Series and Yankees championship-emblazoned products totaled $450 million last year, while the new ballpark spurred 40 percent growth in sponsorship revenue. Local TV ratings on YES Network (Forbes is a partner in a show on YES) were up 11 percent, even as most baseball teams saw ratings decline. Also helping push the Yanks to the top was a strengthening U.S. dollar, which gained 17 percent on the British pound over the 12-month period we reviewed.

Man U might not be knocked off their perch for very long. A new four-year, $130-million shirt sponsorship deal with insurer AON to begin next season is 50 percent greater, on average, than their current deal with AIG. When combined with their pact with apparel giant Nike, the Red Devils will see an average of $66 million a year from the two sponsors, plus a 50 percent share of profits on specific Nike merchandise sales. Man U also lays claim to an unmatched global fan base: 333 million followers and 139 million core fans, with more than half coming from Asia.

When it comes to the gridiron, the Dallas Cowboys are in a league of their own. The Cowboys brand, worth $208 million, is $128 million more valuable than that of the average NFL team. Reason: Jerry Jones’ big push to appeal to fans not just in Texas but across the country since purchasing the team in 1989. So popular are the Cowboys, who’ve become synonymous with America’s Team, that in 2002 they became the first – and to date only – team to opt out of the NFL’s merchandising program and instead take control of their own apparel rights. Jones’ success in the owners’ suite has been staggering. Since he bought the team, the compound annual growth of its enterprise value (equity plus net debt) has been 13 percent, which is 63 percent better than the S&P 500 as a whole.

Spanish Soccer power Barcelona seems to be taking a page out of the playbook of another NFL owner, Al Davis, who immortalized the phrase "Just win, baby." Barcelona won a record six domestic and international competitions last season and in doing so increased their brand value 6 percent to $180 million, despite the euro falling 11 percent against the U.S. dollar over the same period of time. Barcelona leapfrogged the likes of A.C. Milan, Arsenal and Bayern Munich in brand value to rank third among soccer teams and fifth overall. The team also has a great upside. An expanded Camp Nou, already Europe’s largest stadium, is set to be complete by next summer, and should the team ever decide to add a corporate shirt sponsor (it currently receives no money from a partnership with nonprofit UNICEF), its coffers could grow by some $20 million a year.

Another Spanish squad, Real Madrid, ranks third overall with a brand value of $240 million. Their seven-year, $1.4-billion TV deal is the largest for a single team in professional sports. The team is run as a mutual society, meaning it’s actually owned by fans, who’ve approved record spending in recent years. Real spent $510 million last year on salaries and player transfers including the acquisition a trio of international stars: Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Kaka. The goal: to win on the pitch while enhancing their already considerable global presence at the same time.

It’s enough to make even the Steinbrenners blush.

The top five:

1. New York Yankees: Slideshow
2. Manchester United: Slideshow
3. Real Madrid: Slideshow
4. Dallas Cowboys: Slideshow
5. Barcelona: Slideshow
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In Pictures: The 10 most valuable sports team brands