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Alibaba’s way to build its sports empire

By He Lanying 10 Dec 2015

Alibaba has gradually been laying out its plans for the sports business. The partnership with FIFA for the Club World Cup is the latest big move made by the Alibaba Group to enhance its sports presence on the global stage.

Invest in Evergrande FC

Last year the billionaire founder Jack Ma was first rumoured to have developed an interest in football. Reports claimed he was looking at a Chinese Super League (CSL) club the Hangzhou Green City Football Club owned by Song Weiping. Fans of the club expected that Jack Ma would buy into the club but soon Ma declared that he had no interest in football related investment. 

However, days after this declaration, he bought a 50% stake in CSL champion Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club for a reported 1.2 billion yuan ($192million). 

“I think an outsider is needed in the Chinese football world, so here I am. I believe the co-operation with Evergrande will inject some new energy into Chinese football,” said Mr Ma. 

Set up Alibaba Sport Group

In September, the Alibaba Group, together with Sina and Yunfeng Capital, announced the establishment of the Alibaba Sports Group, with the intention of transforming China’s sports industry through Internet-enabled technologies. 

"Sport has the enduring ability to create shared happiness and encourage healthy lifestyles,” said Daniel Zhang, Chief Executive Officer(CEO) of the Alibaba Group. “The Alibaba Sports Group aims to transform the China sports industry through the use of Internet-based technologies while bringing greater and better products and services to consumers, sports participants and sports fans alike,” Zhang said.

The Alibaba Sports Group expects to integrate e-commerce, media, marketing, video, home entertainment, cloud computing and other Internet-enabled technologies to form a sports platform that will participate in different aspects of the professional sports industry, including sports copyrights, sports media, events, ticketing, etc.

Cooperation with Pac-12 Conference 

Originally announced in May, the Alibaba Group and Pac-12 have now expanded their partnership. The Alibaba Group announced to present the 2016 Pac-12 China game during the pre-game press conference for the 2015 edition China Game. 

Partner with Brazillian football legend Ronaldo

In November, Alibaba Sports signed a cooperation agreement with Brazillian football legend Ronaldo Nazario as the exclusive long-term partner of the Ronaldo Soccer Academy in China with the aim of improving the training of Chinese teenage footballers. In addition, Ali Sports will develop mobile applications on sports tourism and training for the academy.

Sponsor FIFA Club World Cup

Just yesterday, the Chinese group announced an eight-year Presenting Partnership with FIFA for the FIFA Club World Cup. This came in the name of Alibaba E-Auto, an ‘internet car’ brand owned by the group. This sponsorship is believed an important step in the Alibaba Group’s long-term strategic focus on health and happiness, and a commitment to promoting sport across China and beyond.

Jack Ma won’t stop here on his sports layouts. The Chinese billionaire will certainly make greater moves in future. At the press conference for the partnership signing of the Club World Cup, Alibaba revealed that there would be deeper cooperation with FIFA in future.

Source: Tencent Sports

Proofread by John Devlin

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