Why the explosion in the valuation of sports teams?
Sports are extremely popular, being a draw to billions of people around the world, acting not only as entertainment but also as social events for many people. Over the past 2-3 decades there has been a surge of investment entering sports, mainly due to technological advances, which has increased the availability of live television viewing. This has seen television contracts for sports increase rapidly and surge in value, which has been reflected in increasing values of the world’s most famous sports teams. On top of this, the broader public have more leisure hours on average than they did a few decades ago. Many choose to spend this extra free time engaging with sports, therefore, increasing their popularity and the revenue streams.
Top Ten Sports Teams by Value
- Dallas Cowboys – $5 billion (NFL)
- New York Yankees – $4.6 billion (MLB)
- Real Madrid – $4.24 billion (Football)
- Barcelona – $4.02 billion (Football)
- New York Knicks – $4 billion (NBA)
- Manchester United – $3.81 billion (Football)
- New England Patriots – $3.8 billion (NFL)
- Los Angeles Lakers – $3.7 billion (NBA)
- Golden State Warriors – $3.5 billion (NBA)
- New York Giants – $3.3 billion (NFL)
Value as of July 2019, source: Forbes
Listed above are the ten highest valued sports teams in the world. Three of these are European football (soccer) teams and the other seven are American sports franchises, with three playing in the National Football League (NFL), three in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and one in Major League Baseball (MLB). Despite football (soccer) being the world’s most popular sport, the American sports franchises dominate the Top Ten. This is mainly due to the lucrative TV and media contracts these leagues have secured.
These contracts are of greater value as their viewer bases are generally wealthier, so will pay more for the product and are also more attractive to advertisers. European football teams rely more on their large fan bases that stretch across the globe, which have been built up through their history and increased merchandise and TV revenue.
Dallas Cowboys – $5 billion (NFL) – USA
The Cowboys joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1960, so do not have the history of many European football teams. The franchise has made it to the Super Bowl eight times and won it five times, both tied for second most in history. The Cowboys are unusual in that they have a large national following shown by its NFL record of consecutive sell-outs of 190 consecutive games (home and away), which began in 2002. From this, they have earned the nickname America’s Team, and built up this fan base from their dominant runs in the 1970s and 1990s. Their high value is mainly due to this large fan base coupled with its $1.2 billion home stadium, which was constructed in 2009.
New York Yankees – $4.6 billion (MLB) – USA
The only MLB team on the list, the Yankees were established in 1901 and are the most successful baseball team, with 27 titles. They benefit from the large New York market and their NY logo, which is recognisable around the world.
Real Madrid – $4.24 billion (Football) – Spain
Founded in 1902, the Spanish giants have won a record 33 La Liga titles and 13 European Cups/ Champions Leagues. Their sustained success has meant they have one of the largest and widest fan bases in the world and receive high levels of prize money, leading to an annual revenue of €757.3 million in 2019.
Barcelona – $4.02 billion (Football) – Spain
The second most expensive football team, Barcelona has one of the largest stadiums in the world (Camp Nou) with a capacity of 99,354. Camp Nou is due to be renovated for $650 million, in order to further increase ticket revenue. They also inked a decade long kit deal with Nike, estimated to be worth around $175 million per year.
New York Knicks – $4 billion (NBA) – USA
In 2016 the Knicks signed a new 20-year media rights deal worth $100 million in the first year. Their valuation is also boosted by its access to its own television network and landmark arena, Madison Square Garden. This is one of the most famous stadiums in the world and used for many other events.
Manchester United – $3.81 billion (Football) – England
The only publicly traded sports team in the top ten, Manchester United have won a record 20 league English league titles. Despite their valuation falling in the last year, they have become a master at generating income, signing a decade long kit deal valued at almost $1 billion with Adidas back in 2015.
New England Patriots – $3.8 billion (NFL) – USA
Winning 3 of the last 6 super bowls (as of 2020) and 6 in total (all coming in the past 20 years), the Patriots are the most successful NFL team in terms of championships. Their loyal fan base spans across the 5 states of the New England area. However, their growth may stagnate as long time Quarterback, Tom Brady has left the franchise this off-season (2020).
Los Angeles Lakers – $3.7 billion (NBA) – USA
The second most valuable NBA franchise also has the second most championships with 16. The Hollywood lifestyle has attracted some of the greatest basketball stars including LeBron James as recently as 2018. The Lakers are in a $4 billion local television deal with Time Warner that spans 20 years, beginning in 2012.
Golden State Warriors – $3.5 billion (NBA) – USA
The Warriors success has been more recent than many of the others on the list, winning 3 of the last 5 NBA championships (as of 2020), with none before this. The team has just played its first season in the new Chase Center, worth over $1.5 billion, maximising ticket revenue, which is planned to be used for other events.
New York Giants – $3.3 billion (NFL) – USA
The third team on the list that calls New York home, the Giants also take advantage of the large fan base in the Big Apple. This helped them perform well from a revenue standpoint, generating $149 million revenue last year, however, this was still less than half that of the Cowboys’ $365 million. The Giants have won a total of 4 Super Bowls which is tied for fifth, two of which came fairly recently in 2007 and 2011.
The expansion of the media and increasing leisure time, combined with continued globalisation points to these major sports brands continuing to significantly increase in value in the long term. It will be vital for many of these teams to maintain their trophy success, to hold their position on this list. However, some brands will remain so strong, that success is not needed to increase value, such as top of the list Dallas Cowboys!