Last year barely saw any great moves from Alisports, which was established by Alibaba last September with minority investors including Sina and Yunfeng Capital, a private investment vehicle controlled by Mr Ma. Alisports is the spearhead in Alibaba's bid to boost its share of China's lucrative sports industry, which is forecast to grow to $814 billion by 2025. The internet-enabled sports unit seems finally about to announce itself loudly from this year onwards by announcing a series of wide-ranging deals which are set to become the current headline hitters.
Joining forces with World Rugby to develop the sport in China
Being a regular player in China’s surging football industry, Alibaba chairman Jack Ma is now hoping to promote another English import after signing a development and sponsorship deal with World Rugby.
Under the agreement, announced on Sunday 10th April, the e-commerce group’s sports division said it would make a “long-term multimillion US dollar investment in the development of rugby in China”.
“We encourage young people to join rugby clubs so as to cultivate the spirit of being strong-willed, aggressive, acquisitive and unified,” said Zhang Dazhong, chief executive of Alisports.
“This deal will ensure an unprecedented platform for rugby to reach, engage and inspire new participants across China,” said Bernard Lapasset, World Rugby chairman.
Signing a partnership with CSM to develop sport in China
Early on 7th April, Alisports announced a partnership with global sports and entertainment group CSM to develop and run a range of global sports properties and develop mass participation events across China. The partnership brings together two global powerhouses with very different skills sets but the single ambition of expanding the appeal and participation in sport across China.
Commenting on the partnership Zhang Dazhong, chief executive of Alisport said: “Sport is a national priority for China. It has the power to create shared happiness and encourage healthy lifestyles. With CSM’s extensive knowledge across all sports and Alisports’ dominance in internet-based technologies we can bring greater and better products and services to all sports fans in China whether they take part themselves or cheer on their heroes.”
Making a play for growing e-sports sector
Alibaba have swooped on the fast growing e-sports sector by announcing that it will be launching multiple e-sports tournaments, including a series called the Alisports World Electronic Sport Games (WESG).
The project will see AliSports, which has already invested $15.4 million in WESG, team up with YuuZoo, a Singaporean social networking company. YuuZoo currently operates e-commerce platforms in China. Under the multimillion dollar agreement, AliSports will pay YuuGames to organise and run WESG and manage the AliSports eSports Clubs Competition Center.
The partnership is planning to launch 1,200 eSports events this year across 15 cities in China – a country which is home to more than 100 million eSports fans and 440 million gamers.
On the launch of WESG, Zhang Dazhong, chief executive of Alisports, commented “eSports has been a very volatile market, with great fluctuations and spikes in the industry to date. More recently it has managed to establish itself as a focus for stable growth after a few market crashes.”
Against the background of China’s President Xi Jinping attempting to turn the country into a “great sports nation”, creating an industry worth Rmb5tn ($760bn) by 2025, up from Rmb400bn last year, Alisports will surely make further efforts to develop its role as a leading company in the Chinese sports market and eventually transform the market as it has done in China’s e-commerce market.
Proofread by John Devlin.