City Football Group: innovating sports branding

City Football Group, which owns the notable Manchester City FC (this year’s Premier League winners), has established ownership of different clubs across the globe. This is a pretty unique business model; City Football Group also owns the American New York City FC, Australian Melbourne City FC and Yokohama F Marinos FC of Japan. The group was taken over by Abu Dhabi investors in 2008 and since then, the clubs have seen substantial increase in season ticket-holders, investment and income.

By nurturing the family of brands, CFG has been able to tap into a global fan-base of 400 million people. In addition to this, the Group says its innovative structure (a first in the Premier League), is also able to access resources that otherwise would’ve been challenging to reach such as new markets, players and global sponsorship opportunities.

The club’s investments provide a halo effect for the American, Australian and Japanese clubs while expanding the reach of Man City’s core brand. A big attractor to this branding model is the global marketing platform it provides: sponsors get local relevance in each market while also getting exposure from the global fan-base and popularity of Man City.

Football can be an emotional sport- fans are deeply and truly dedicated to their teams and emotionally invested in their success. Some travel far to see away games and spend money on memorabilia and merchandise. CFG has not only found a way to leverage this dedication and popularity of their core brand, but also find a way to effectively utilise its extensive network of resources.

Other football owners have sought to revitalise their clubs with foreign investment with Qatari (Paris Saint-Germain F.C.), Emirati (Man City) and Russian (Chelsea F.C.) ownership pumping up European clubs. Qatar has a history of investing in foreign sports and arts in an effort to establish global prominence, which includes a successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup along with outposts of notable museums such as the Guggenheim and Louvre Abu Dhabi, bolstering links with the west.

But CFG is morphing into a global corporation, the “Coca-Cola of football. It owns the contracts of 240 professional male players and selects hopeful teenagers to fill its talent pool by filling out its lower teams. It’s clearly worked for them, winning this year’s Premier League (and their third title in seven seasons). Time will tell if the structure is valuable into the future.