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Why are Chinese conglomerates rushing into the sports industry?

By He Lanying 30 Nov 2015

“Industry” has become a trending topic which is no less popular than hashtags like “gold medal” and “champion” in the 2015 Chinese sports world. It is estimated that, since the State Council announced the sports reform plan in October 2014, more than 30 listed domestic companies have got involved in the sports industry in this one year period. The involvement of Chinese conglomerates like Alibaba and Dalian Wanda has people wondering why these corporations are so interested in sports. 

Ali Sports Group: turning 1.3 billion Chinese into sportspeople.

It’s been two months or so since Alibaba announced the establishment of the Ali Sports Group last September. During this period, almost all sports programs launched by Ali have been based on school sports and grassroots sports. 

Ali Sports CEO Zhang Dazhong said, “What we want to do is create a fundamental sports platform for mass groups and lead 1.3 billion people to live an active life.”

Last week, Ali Sports and Brazilian football legend Ronaldo announced a partnership which will jointly run the Ronaldo Soccer Academy in China. Prior to this partnership, Ali had also established a partnership with the Pac-12 Conference. 

From the above programmes, we can see Ali are focusing on grassroots and school sports. “Not everyone can become a professional athlete, but they can be a sportsperson and live an active life,” Zhang said.

Wanda Group: speaking for Chinese sports 

Different from Ali, Wanda’s focus is on sports business acquisitions. Wang Jianlin, president of the Wanda Group said recently that their goal is to give a louder voice to Chinese sports. 

The Wanda Group has made two big investments this year. The 1.05 billion-euro acquisition of a 100% stake of Infront Sports & Media and the 650 million-euros purchase of the World Triathlon Corporation have really turned the Wanda Group into a leading sports company globally. 

Wang Jianlin also disclosed that they will continue to buy similar sports companies in the hope of winning greater influence for the Chinese sports industry. Wanda also wants to bring more top sports event to China, such as the triathlon event next year. 

Le Sports: based on sports streaming rights

Le Sports was officially launched in March last year and since then the online streaming company has been actively involved in sports rights marketing. It has acquired rights to more than 200 blue-ribbon sports events up to now. Its rights portfolio includes top European football events, ATP and WTA in tennis, F1, the PGA Tour, CBA, the AFC Champions League, CSL and so on. 

Lei Zhenjian, Le Sports CEO, said, “top sports events are scarce in the market. You need to be proactive to acquire more rights in order to have a strong foothold in the sports market. Our vision is to integrate global sports resources into our portfolio and eventually enable everyone to better participate in sports.”


Proofread by John Devlin

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