The World’s 50 Most Valuable Sports Teams
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Every team’s general manager starts off with the same goal: to build a franchise that contends for championships year in and year out.
However, with the nature of the business being what it is, the odds are stacked against any team trying to achieve this. Out of close to 30 teams in most leagues, only one franchise can come out on top with a championship. And with unprecedented parity in most major leagues, every management decision is a crucial one. One smart draft choice or trade can put a team in a position to win, but a single mistake can also make a team a perennial bottom dweller.
Owners have a similar perspective, but they also want to build a franchise that is worth money in the long-run. To do that, they need to consider factors outside of winning: merchandise sales, sponsorships, costs, and other business decisions need to be made. They need to figure out how to capture the imagination of fans, and how to salvage the value of a franchise even when they are losing most games.
Today’s chart, using data from Forbes, is a hat tip to the teams that are lucky enough to count themselves among the most valuable in the world. Further, we also look at how the list has changed over time, and what happens to the valuations of franchises that are fortunate to be contenders on an ongoing basis.
What Makes a Team Valuable?
Multi-billion dollar sports teams don’t just grow on trees.
Instead, the massive value assigned to teams like the Dallas Cowboys or Manchester United is the culmination of a variety of important factors: market size, fan appeal, sport economics, international cross-over potential, profit, success, history, and many others.
Here’s a Top 10 List of the world’s most valuable sports teams – and how that list has changed since 2010.
The ranking list has a few big takeaways on what is needed to become a valuation monster:
Market size matters:
New York and Los Angeles do very well for valuation, even without many recent championships. These places are home to millions of fans, as well as massive amounts of dollars to be made from sponsors and media rights.
Recent success helps:
The Patriots have made seven Super Bowl appearances since 2000, cementing the franchise as one of the most valuable sports teams in the world.
Recent failures hurt:
The Redskins haven’t won a playoff series since 2005 (Wildcard) – and partially as a result, they have fallen out of the Top 10 ranking for the most valuable sports teams in 2017.
History is a factor:
Manchester United hasn’t won the EPL in the last few years, but the club’s history speaks for itself. The Yankees have been mediocre in the last five years, but fans know they’ll be back eventually.
Sport economics are key:
Why are there so many NFL teams on the Top 50 list? The economics just work better, and it translates to team valuations.
What’s unique about Manchester United, the Yankees, or the Patriots? You’ll see people wearing their gear all around the world – they have rare cross-over appeal to international markets, and this means more dough.
Championships and Team Value
It’s clear that winning has a role in team value – but how big of a difference can it make?
Next, we’ll look at how value has changed for teams that have been particularly successful in recent years, like the Golden State Warriors, New England Patriots, and Chicago Blackhawks.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors franchise is worth +622% more than it was back in 2010, thanks to recent success. The team has made the finals in each of the last three years – and they’ve taken home the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy twice.
New England Patriots
Like other perennial champions, the Pats have their fair share of detractors. Team owner Robert Kraft likely doesn’t care though – his team is now worth $3.4 billion, a 150% increase in value since 2010. They also have the hardware to show for it.
Despite a storied history as an “Original 6” team in the NHL, the Blackhawks found themselves in a bit of a funk in the 2000s. That all changed in 2006 and 2007, when the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane – and now the team has won three Stanley Cups since 2010.
Recent winning streaks do help – and championships translate to other value categories as well. Winning builds the team’s history and brand, converts bandwagon fans, and helps teams create an international presence.
Or as the late Al Davis often said, “Just win, baby.”
One Team Towns
To finish, here’s a final visualization that highlights the valuations of franchises in “One Team Towns” – cities in North America that each hold only one of the Big Four (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) franchises.
Of course, once the Raiders move to Las Vegas after their current lease expires, this map will change once again.
How the Top Cryptocurrencies Performed in 2021
Cryptocurrencies had a breakout year in 2021, providing plenty of volatility and strong returns across crypto’s various sectors.
The Returns of Top Cryptocurrencies in 2021
2021 saw the crypto markets boom and mature, with different sectors flourishing and largely outperforming the market leader, bitcoin.
While bitcoin only managed to return 59.8% last year, the crypto sector’s total market cap grew by 187.5%, with many of the top coins offering four and even five-digit percentage returns.
2021 Crypto Market Roundup
Last year wasn’t just a breakout year for crypto in terms of returns, but also the growing infrastructure’s maturity and resulting decorrelation of individual crypto industries and coins.
Crypto’s infrastructure has developed significantly, and there are now many more onramps for people to buy altcoins that don’t require purchasing and using bitcoin in the process. As a result, many cryptocurrency prices were more dictated by the value and functionality of their protocol and applications rather than their correlation to bitcoin.
|Ethereum||Smart Contract Platform||399.2%|
|Binance Coin||Exchange Token||1,268.9%|
|Solana||Smart Contract Platform||11,177.8%|
|Cardano||Smart Contract Platform||621.3%|
|Terra||Smart Contract Platform||12,967.3%|
|Avalanche||Smart Contract Platform||3,334.8%|
|Polkadot||Smart Contract Platform||187.9%|
Sources: TradingView, Binance, Uniswap, FTX, Bittrex
Bitcoin wasn’t the only cryptocurrency that didn’t manage to reach triple-digit returns in 2021. Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash also provided meagre double-digit percentage returns, as payment-focused cryptocurrencies were largely ignored for projects with smart contract capabilities.
Other older projects like Stellar Lumens (109%) and XRP (278%) provided triple-digit returns, with Cardano (621%) being the best performer of the old guard despite not managing to ship its smart contract functionality last year.
The Rise of the Ethereum Competitors
Ethereum greatly outpaced bitcoin in 2021, returning 399.2% as the popularity boom of NFTs and creation of DeFi 2.0 protocols like Olympus (OHM) expanded possible use-cases.
But with the rise of network activity, a 50% increase in transfers in 2021, Ethereum gas fees surged. From minimums of $20 for a single transaction, to NFT mint prices starting around $40 and going into the hundreds on congested network days, crypto’s retail crowd migrated to other smart contract platforms with lower fees.
Alternative budding smart contract platforms like Solana (11,178%), Avalanche (3,335%), and Fantom (13,207%) all had 4-5 digit percentage returns, as these protocols built out their own decentralized finance ecosystems and NFT markets.
With Ethereum set to merge onto the beacon chain this year, which uses proof of stake instead of proof of work, we’ll see if 2022 brings lower gas fees and retail’s return to Ethereum if the merge is successful.
Dog Coins Meme their Way to the Top
While many new cryptocurrencies with strong functionality and unique use-cases were rewarded with strong returns, it was memes that powered the greatest returns in cryptocurrencies this past year.
Dogecoin’s surge after Elon Musk’s “adoption” saw many other dog coins follow, with SHIB benefitting the most and returning an astounding 19.85 million percent.
But ever since Dogecoin’s run from $0.07 to a high of $0.74 in Q2 of last year, the original meme coin’s price has slowly bled -77% down to $0.17 at the time of writing. After the roller coaster ride of last year, 2022 started with a positive catalyst for Dogecoin holders as Elon Musk announced DOGE can be used to purchase Tesla merchandise.
Gamifying the Crypto Industry
The intersection between crypto, games, and the metaverse became more than just a pipe dream in 2021. Axie Infinity was the first crypto native game to successfully establish a play to earn structure that combines its native token (AXS) and in-game NFTs, becoming a sensation and source of income for many in the Philippines.
Other crypto gaming projects like Defi Kingdoms are putting recognizable game interfaces on decentralized finance applications, with the decentralized exchange becoming the town’s “marketplace” and yield farms being the “gardens” where yield is harvested. This fantasy aesthetic is more than just a new coat of paint, as the project with $1.04B of total value locked is developing an underlying play-to-earn game.
Along with gamification, 2021 saw crypto native and non-crypto developers put a big emphasis on the digital worlds or metaverses users will inhabit. Facebook’s name change to Meta resulted in the two prominent metaverse projects The Sandbox (SAND) and Decentraland (MANA) surge another few hundred percent to finish off the year at 16,261% and 4,104% returns respectively.
With so many eyes on the crypto sector after the 2021’s breakout year, we’ll see how developing U.S. regulation and changing macro conditions affect cryptocurrencies in 2022.
The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2012-2021)
Energy fuels led the way as commodity prices surged in 2021, with only precious metals providing negative returns.
The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2022 Edition)
For investors, 2021 was a year in which nearly every asset class finished in the green, with commodities providing some of the best returns.
The S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) was the third best-performing asset class in 2021, returning 37.1% and beating out real estate and all major equity indices.
This graphic from U.S. Global Investors tracks individual commodity returns over the past decade, ranking them based on their individual performance each year.
Commodity Prices Surge in 2021
After a strong performance from commodities (metals especially) in the year prior, 2021 was all about energy commodities.
The top three performers for 2021 were energy fuels, with coal providing the single best annual return of any commodity over the past 10 years at 160.6%. According to U.S. Global Investors, coal was also the least volatile commodity of 2021, meaning investors had a smooth ride as the fossil fuel surged in price.
Source: U.S. Global Investors
The only commodities in the red this year were precious metals, which failed to stay positive despite rising inflation across goods and asset prices. Gold and silver had returns of -3.6% and -11.7% respectively, with platinum returning -9.6% and palladium, the worst performing commodity of 2021, at -22.2%.
Aside from the precious metals, every other commodity managed double-digit positive returns, with four commodities (crude oil, coal, aluminum, and wheat) having their best single-year performances of the past decade.
Energy Commodities Outperform as the World Reopens
The partial resumption of travel and the reopening of businesses in 2021 were both powerful catalysts that fueled the price rise of energy commodities.
After crude oil’s dip into negative prices in April 2020, black gold had a strong comeback in 2021 as it returned 55.01% while being the most volatile commodity of the year.
Natural gas prices also rose significantly (46.91%), with the UK and Europe’s natural gas prices rising even more as supply constraints came up against the winter demand surge.
Despite being the second worst performer of 2020 with the clean energy transition on the horizon, coal was 2021’s best commodity.
High electricity demand saw coal return in style, especially in China which accounts for one-third of global coal consumption.
Base Metals Beat out Precious Metals
2021 was a tale of two metals, as precious metals and base metals had opposing returns.
Copper, nickel, zinc, aluminum, and lead, all essential for the clean energy transition, kept up last year’s positive returns as the EV batteries and renewable energy technologies caught investors’ attention.
Demand for these energy metals looks set to continue in 2022, with Tesla having already signed a $1.5 billion deal for 75,000 tonnes of nickel with Talon Metals.
On the other end of the spectrum, precious metals simply sunk like a rock last year.
Investors turned to equities, real estate, and even cryptocurrencies to preserve and grow their investments, rather than the traditionally favorable gold (-3.64%) and silver (-11.72%). Platinum and palladium also lagged behind other commodities, only returning -9.64% and -22.21% respectively.
Grains Bring Steady Gains
In a year of over and underperformers, grains kept up their steady track record and notched their fifth year in a row of positive returns.
Both corn and wheat provided double-digit returns, with corn reaching eight-year highs and wheat reaching prices not seen in over nine years. Overall, these two grains followed 2021’s trend of increasing food prices, as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index reached a 10-year high, rising by 17.8% over the course of the year.
As inflation across commodities, assets, and consumer goods surged in 2021, investors will now be keeping a sharp eye for a pullback in 2022. We’ll have to wait and see whether or not the Fed’s plans to increase rates and taper asset purchases will manage to provide price stability in commodities.
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