LONDON: The brand value of Manchester United Football Club has soared past $1bn, despite its lack of success on the pitch over the past two years, according to a new study which also highlights the use of football by Gulf nations to build their own brand image.

The Football 50 list from Brand Finance, the branding consultancy, calculates a club's brand value on the basis of its actual financial value combined with its public image, including such factors as reputation, heritage, on-pitch performance and how aware people are of it.

This shows that while Spanish clubs may perform best, English ones have the greatest brand value – there are six English clubs in the top ten, two Spanish, one German and one French.

Barcelona has just won the Champions League for the fourth time in ten years but the club has slipped to sixth place in the Brand Finance ranking, with a brand value of $773m, behind its longstanding rival Real Madrid, in third place with a brand value of $873m. In second place is Bayern Munich with a brand value of $933m.

At the top of the pile, however, sits Manchester United, whose brand value has leapt 63% to $1.2bn, thanks, the report said, to a combination of factors including a ten-year kit deal worth £750m with Adidas and an improved TV deal.

"It is reflective of a show of faith from sponsors," Robert Haigh, Brand Finance communications director, told City A.M.

"It shows other interested parties that they are a club worth sticking with and still at the top of the game."

Manchester City (4th $800m), Chelsea (5th $795m), Arsenal (7th $703m), Liverpool (8th 577m) and Tottenham Hotspur (10th $360m) are the other English clubs to feature at the top of the list, with Paris St Germain (9th $541m) rounding out the top ten.

Five of these have shirt sponsorship deals with Arabian Gulf airlines while two also also have stadia named after them. And the National pointed out that Gulf states were using football to build 'soft power'.

According to Andrew Campbell, managing director of Brand Finance Middle East, "the clearest example of this use of football to build a nation brand is Abu Dhabi's Manchester City FC investment, which has given Abu Dhabi rapid global awareness and has provided Etihad a global platform to expose and promote its brand to a receptive audience."

Data sourced from City A.M., The National; additional content by Warc staff