Davos 2017: Alibaba Boosts Brand With ‘Historic’ Olympics Deal


Alibaba Olympics

Alibaba is expanding its already-huge footprint by betting big on the next six Olympics Games, including the 2022 Winter Olympics, which are set to return to Beijing, capital of the e-commerce giant’s home market in China.

Founder and CEO Jack Ma called it a “historic” day for the company and a huge part of his strategy of steering the massive online shopping channel toward partnerships and deals that focus on “happiness and health” through sports.

“More people need to get involved with sports and the Olympic spirit is about working together,” Ma said, as reported by USA Today. 

Beyond the deal itself, the venue for Ma’s announcement was strategic: He and Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang disclosed the deal at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where Ma was a featured speaker, alongside International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

As WEF organizers noted in a factbox on the Alibaba Group, “the e-commerce phenomenon founded in 1999, is now considered to be the world’s largest retailer, surpassing Wal-Mart last year. At the end of the last financial year, the company posted a gross market value (GMV) of 3 trillion yuan, about $476 billion.”

The China brain trust, both political and commercial, seems to see an opportunity for creating wider interest in the nation’s globalist ambitions as a change of administration gets underway in Washington. Before Ma’s announcement, President Xi Jinping became the first Chinese leader to visit the annual gathering in Davos, the iconic place for global business and political leaders to meet.

As part of its sponsorship, Alibaba will put as much as $600 million into its Olympics efforts, becoming part of The Olympic Partner program as well as the Games’ official “Cloud Services” and “E-Commerce Platform Services” partner. It will also become one of the founding partners of the Olympic Channel—which will help when it comes to selling official Olympic merchandise worldwide.

The deal, which runs through 2028, also comes as the next three Olympic Games are scheduled for Asia: The 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea; the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo; and 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

Ma also took the opportunity to describe the differences between Alibaba and its chief global rival, US-based Amazon. “Amazon is more like an empire,” he said, according to CNBC.com. “Everything they control themselves, buy and sell.

“Our philosophy is that we want to be an ecosystem. Our philosophy is to empower others to sell, empower others to service, making sure the other people are more powerful than us … Our philosophy is, using internet technology we can make every company become Amazon.”

Target Soccer

Meanwhile, another major retailer, Target, also is attempting to use greater involvement in sports to burnish its brand. In the wake of reporting that comp-store sales for the November-December holiday shopping period declined by 1.3 percent, Target announced it has become the official partner of Major League Soccer, in the largest sports push in the company’s history.

Specifically, Target is becoming an official partner and jersey sponsor of the Minnesota United FC—which is located close to its Minneapolis headquarters—as well as an official retailer of US Youth Soccer and donor to the US Soccer Foundation.

“There are so many things that drew us to soccer—it’s multicultural, watched and played by families and is growing immensely in popularity,” said Rick Gomez, senior vice president of marketing, in a press release. “We’ve partnered with several incredible organizations and vendors to invite soccer fans everywhere to engage with the Target brand in new ways.”