The Catalan city steps ups 3 positions and, for the first time ever, is part of the Top 5 of the Ranking of Sports Cities by Burson Cohn & Wolfe Sports (BCW Sports), which is topped, once again, by New York.
In an especially difficult year for big major events, also sporting ones, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Barcelona manages to improve its global image as a city associated with sports. For the first time ever, it breaks into the Top 5 of the 2021 Ranking of Sports Cities, created yearly by the global communications agency Burson Cohn & Wolfe Sports (BCW Sports), based in Lausanne.
Barcelona ranks 4th and goes up three positions in a ranking topped by New York, for the second year in a row, followed by London, Los Angeles and Paris in the 5th place. In addition, Tokyo, which should have hosted the Olympic Games last year and is due to do it this summer 2021, goes down 9 positions and Madrid keeps its 10th place like last year. The Spanish capital closes the Top 10 of this ranking that classifies the 50 cities most associated with sports in the world based on both qualitative and quantitative data. For example, it gathers the opinion of leaders of International Federations and experts, sports media agents and it also analyzes the number of mentions with the word sports associated with each city on the main social media channels like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
The importance of being an Olympic city
A shared value by many of the cities in the Top 10 is that they have held the Olympic Games. We cannot forget the major effect of the 1992 Olympic Games for Barcelona with a global impact that put the Mediterranean city in the spotlight in an outstanding way.
After nearly 30 years, the image of Barcelona city keeps connected to the sports world also thanks to being the home of Barcelona Football Club, a sports institution with over a century of history that presents in its professional first team such world-acclaimed figures as Messi and Dembélé. The volume of mentions on social media generated by a club of this size also contributes to consider Barcelona the 4th city most associated with sports in the world. This also reflects on other cities, like, for example, Manchester, ranked 6th, and Madrid, as they are two cities that benefit from the great impact on both traditional and social media of several sports team that carry their name (on the one hand, Manchester City and Manchester United and, on the other, Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid).
In fact, this is one of the main conclusions of the 2021 Sports Cities Ranking. According to Lars Heue-Pedersen, BCW Managing Director – BCW Sports, “This year’s results confirm the trends we have been observing for some time in sports and cities. The cities whose image are largely associated with sports are either hosting major international sporting events or are home to renowned professional sports teams that promote the city’s name week after week – as in the case of New York. Sport has a powerful ability to attract, engage and move people, and through an integrated, audience-centric approach, sporting events and professional teams can become excellent vehicles for promoting a city internationally and creating economic impact.”
The emerging sports cities
Another key learning from the 2021 Sports Cities Ranking is the rise of the Gulf Region in the sports sector. Two cities from this area, Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, and Dubai, in United Arab Emirates, have made their debut in this year’s list, showing the current trend that is moving some major international events from the traditional markets of Europe, North America and Australia to growing regions like, for example, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and, also, the F1 and the FIFA World Cup to the Gulf Region.
Last but not least, this year’s ranking also analyzes the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sports cities’ reputation. Those cities that already had a strong image associated with sports, like Paris and Tokyo, haven’t struggled much due to the cancellation or postponement of major sporting events and have only dropped a few positions in the ranking. However, those less globally profiled cities have suffered more from postponements and cancellations like Copenhagen, which has moved from the 12th position to the 42nd place, and Buenos Aires, that has ended up in the 44th position compared to 15th in 2020.