This Saturday (6 June), FC Barcelona will face off against Juventus in the final of the UEFA Champions League, Europe’s blue-riband club football competition, marking the first time since 2010 that an Italian team has reached this stage. If the match were decided on commercial performance rather than on the pitch, however, the Spanish league champions would deliver their opponents a thrashing.
Barcelona exceeds Juventus on every financial and marketing measure, including overall revenues, sponsorship income, match attendance and social media followers.
The team is ranked fourth in Deloitte’s 2015 Football Money League, which compiles revenue figures for the world’s biggest football clubs from the previous season, in this case 2013-14. It is the Catalan team’s lowest position on the list in nearly a decade, putting it behind Real Madrid, Manchester United and FC Bayern Munich.
Its slowdown in revenue follows the team’s lack of trophies in 2013-14 and Deloitte notes that Barcelona’s prospects of keeping pace with the top of the Money League will depend on its next round of sponsorship negotiations.
Barcelona’s kit deal with Nike runs until 2018, but its £25m-a-year shirt sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways is due to expire next year, and while there has been speculation of a new £45m-a-year deal, there are also doubts about whether the relationship will be extended. The airline is controlled by the Qatari state, which has been accused of corruption in securing votes to become the venue of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and criticised for the death toll of construction workers building the stadiums for the tournament.
Barcelona club president Josep Maria Bartomeu gave a radio interview in January stating that “social issues” meant it was considering alternative sponsors. Barcelona never had a commercial shirt sponsor before signing a deal with the Qatar Foundation in 2010, but if it decides to look elsewhere in 2016, its Spanish league victory and a potential Champions League title could help to increase the value of its next shirt sponsorship deal.
Even though Barcelona has the second highest average match attendance after Manchester United, only 24% of its revenues come from ticket sales, compared with 38% each from commercial deals and TV broadcast rights. The average proportion of revenues made up by ticket sales across the Money League top 20 clubs is only 20%.
In contrast to Barcelona, Juventus are relative paupers despite ranking 10th in the Money League. The Italian club made £233.6m in total revenue last year according to the report, compared to Barcelona’s £405.2m. Juventus also attracts only half the number of spectators each week, earns less than half as much from sponsorship and merchandising and has around one-tenth the social media following of Barcelona.
Juventus’s brand value was £147m in 2014 compared to £370m for Barcelona, according to Brand Finance, which calculates the figure as the amount an organisation would hypothetically have to pay to license its brand if it did not own it. The company’s 2015 valuations will be published in the week following the final in its annual Brand Finance Football 50 report – researchers say a win would provide an £18.3m boost for Barcelona’s brand value, or £8.5m for Juventus.
In terms of kit makers, it is Nike v Nike in the 2015 final, though Juventus will wear Adidas shirts from next season. The club’s deal with Nike came to an acrimonious end, with the club announcing the switch to rival Adidas in 2013 and a subsequent legal dispute. With its new agreement, Juventus has doubled the amount it earns annually from its kit deal, from £8.5m to £17m a year, though this is only the 8th most valuable such agreement in club football.
Barcelona makes more than half as much again from its deal with Nike, at £28m a year, with three years to run on the contract. The higher value is unsurprising given that it gives Nike the opportunity to sell shirts adorned with some of the sport’s biggest names, such as Messi, Neymar and Suárez – Juventus’s squad is far less stellar.
As to the Champions League final itself, UK viewing figures are likely to suffer from the absence of an English team. Last year’s final between two Madrid teams, Real and Atlético, averaged only 6.1 million viewers on Sky and ITV, compared with 8.2 million in 2012, when Chelsea beat Bayern Munich, and 7.9 million in 2011, when Manchester United lost to Barcelona.
However, UEFA claims that the reach of the final was 380 million unique viewers worldwide in 2014, up 20 million from its estimate the previous year. That is still below viewing figures for the World Cup, but with ongoing controversies over corruption within organiser FIFA, the Champions League is fast becoming the more compelling sponsorship proposition for brands.