Brand Finance estimates that Lionel Messi’s departure could decrease FC Barcelona’s brand value by 11%. The club can therefore see €137m knocked off its 2021 valuation of €1,266m.
Barcelona is currently the world’s second most valuable football club brand, according to the Brand Finance Football 50 2021 report. With a brand value of €1,266m, Barcelona ranks closely behind Real Madrid, which boasts a brand value of just €10m more – €1,276m. Brand value is based on the proportion of revenues that is attributable to the brand; Messi's departure is expected to have direct adverse effects on Barcelona's future sponsorship income, merchandise sales, and matchday revenue. It could also indirectly contribute to a decline of brand value as Barcelona’s brand strength may weaken with diminished fan perceptions and the club’s global following at risk of shrinking.
Looking at Messi’s role in driving revenue for the club across different streams, Brand Finance has estimated that his departure could result in an 11% drop to Barcelona’s brand value. In absolute terms, the club could see a €137m decline to its 2021 brand valuation of €1,266m, and lose any chance of overtaking Real Madrid. With a lower brand value of €1,129m following Messi’s departure, Barcelona could also slide down to third place in the Brand Finance Football 50 2021 ranking behind Manchester United (brand value €1,130m).
Hugo Hensley, Head of Sports Services at Brand Finance, commented: “Messi is synonymous with the Barcelona brand and has been the club’s talisman since bursting onto the scene 15 years ago. His presence at the club has no doubt allowed it to attract additional fans, better players, managers, commercial deals, and win silverware. His departure can cost the club as much and result in a painful brand value decrease.”
What does Messi’s departure mean for FC Barcelona’s brand value?
Ben Baigrie, Sports Services Consultant at Brand Finance, explains: It is needless to say that Messi is a global superstar. The key areas where the Argentine player generates value for Barcelona are:
Commercial revenue: His global following makes him a highly attractive athlete for corporate sponsors and his presence at the club has undoubtedly allowed Barcelona to bring in more lucrative sponsorship deals. Messi has over 240m followers on Instagram, more than double than that of the Barcelona official account (99.5m), a stat personifying the popularity and value he can bring to any team through his sheer following alone. Brand value at risk linked to commercial revenue is estimated at around €77m.
On-pitch performance & Matchday: One cannot predict how Barcelona will perform following his departure, but he has had a colossal impact on their performance over the years and has brought a significant amount of following to the club. Messi has scored more than 30 goals a season since 2008/2009 leading the club to a plethora of honours along the way. Barcelona still presents a star-studded line up with his name off the team sheet, but they may take time to adjust without their key man.Messi’s absence from the pitch could cost up to €17m in brand value.
Shirt sales and merchandising: You can walk the streets almost anywhere in the world and expect to see someone roaming the streets wearing the iconic No. 10 jersey. Messi’s shirt sales reportedly generated over €200m, of which the club collects a portion of around 10-15% (€30m), and kit manufacturer Nike enjoy the lion’s share. This may also mean Nike will lose out on revenue following his departure should Barcelona general merchandising sales decrease as a result. With the famous ‘Messi No. 10’ off the shelves, Barcelona could lose out on €43m in brand value.
When taking this into account, it’s important to recognise that value must be measured as forward looking – as in to say, how much additional value could Messi generate for Barcelona over the remainder of his career if he were to stay? Whilst one might argue he is approaching the end of his career; Messi has shown little sign of slowing down, registering 38 goals across all competitions in the 2020/2021 season. Many players such as Cristiano Ronaldo (age 36) and Zlatan Ibrahimović (age 39) are still performing at the highest level and there is little to suggest Messi could not go on to play for another 5 years at the top level. However, if Messi was 28, then the value at risk for Barcelona would be significantly higher based on a larger expected future return.
Looking at the impact of Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid in 2018, the club’s brand value decreased by 19%. The club has struggled to replicate its on-pitch success since the Portuguese superstar left for Juventus. This year also saw no Real Madrid players selected for the EURO 2020 Spanish national team, pointing to the club’s struggle for form.
Barcelona can see a very similar impact, but the club’s future actions and performance can play a significant role in mitigating the risk of such a painful brand value drain. Naturally, the value at risk is largely dependent on how Barcelona reacts and performs once he leaves. For example, if they bring in other star players who can help drive better on-pitch performance, shirt sales, and commercial deals, then the impact may be limited.
Brand Finance has estimated the potential impact of Lionel Messi’s departure on FC Barcelona’s brand value by examining the player’s role in driving revenue across key streams, such as commercial and matchday. The proportion of Messi’s value on the transfer market to the total value of the club’s players was used as a proxy for the proportion of the club’s revenues which can be attributed to Messi’s presence in the club.