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Alisports CEO Zhang Dazhong: It is time for us to do more

By Yutang Sports 28 Sep 2017

When the company made its debut in 2015, Alisports, the sports offshoot of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, announced its goal to the public of being "the base platform of the sports industry".

Now, 2 years later, the company still insists on this goal but its business range has been expanded with a new priority of creating Alisports' original intelligent properties (IP), related to their goal. 

On September 9 2017, the second anniversary of Alisports, Zhang Dazhong, CEO of Alisports, shared the company's new experiences over the past year in an interview with Yutang Sports.

When we asked about Alisports' highlights over the past year, Zhang emphasized the Alibaba partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as well as other Alisports' endeavours in eSports. 

At the beginning of 2017, Alibaba joined forces with the IOC becoming a new member of The Olympic Partners (TOP Program) and acting as the Cloud Service & E-commerce partner of the IOC. 

This month the IOC President Thomas Bach visited Alibaba's headquarter in Hangzhou during which President Bach expressed a different opinion on the emerging eSports industry in which the IOC would consider Esports as a new sport in the Olympic Games but only games without violence contrary to the negative view he expressed previously. 

To some extent, in Zhang's opinion, this change in attitude towards eSports as an Olympic sport can be attributed to Alisports' endeavours in eSports promotion. Since 2016, Alisports has organized two editions of the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG), an international eSports championship tournament inaugurated by Alisports. Recently they helped in the nomination of eSports as one of the official sports events of the Asian Games 2022 to be held in Hangzhou, China.

When the aforementioned facts were introduced to Thomas Bach during his visit to Alibaba’s headquarters he seemed to change his mind and began to have a more positive opinion about eSports. 

Apart from the IOC, a lot of international sports associations and federations have reached partnerships with Alibaba or Alisports, such as FIFA, AIBA, FINA, FIS, World Rugby and others which has allowed Alisports to become a "platform" with various resources serving different types of sports similar to Alibaba. 

Zhang emphasised that Alisport would rather create new IPs under these partnerships rather than just buying their current IPs. "Now, IPs play an important role in our strategy, while developing original IP is our priority," stated Zhang. 

However, not many people had a clear idea about what the "platform" exactly was until Alisports launched a campaign on August 8, 2017, the "8.8 Member's day" which was featured on Alipay, a payment app developed by Alibaba. 

In this campaign, each Alipay user could activate a "sports account" on the payment app. The number of user steps per day would be recorded by the app and re-calculated into credits in their accounts which could then be converted into coupons to buy sports products and services offered by online shops partnering with Alibaba and Alipay. 

To Zhang and Alisports' surprise, this campaign attracted an MAU of 50 million with around 10.4 million users registering and 5.18 million users activating their sports accounts. Meanwhile, the number of users who bought sports products and services reached 4.69 million. 

These results went beyond Zhang's expectations and allowed Alisports to be more confident in engaging people. In Zhang's opinion, compared to strategies such as bidding for media rights of top leagues and events, to reach more consumers by offering "basic" services would be a more sustainable way to go.  

In fact, Zhang had expressed this exact opinion at a press conference held in April 2017. 

Over the past years, many sports companies and investors in China were keen to bid for the media rights of top leagues. However, Alisports has never appeared in these bids which came as a surprise to many people. 

"In many people's opinion, Alisports is a big company which should organize 'big' events, take some 'big' actions or even buy the media rights of the 'big' leagues. But what does 'big' mean? You have to serve the public, so that you can have a real 'big' business in the future,” stated Zhang.

Now, with the "irrational" trend in the sports market fading away, companies and investors in the company need to calm down and find their own paths. 

“We insist on our strategy in such an irrational market, and the strategy has been proved to be correct. Now, it’s time for us to do more.” expressed Zhang. 

Proofread by Raymond Fitzpatrick

Tags: Alisports
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