Alibaba to Bring Olympic Channel to Chinese Audiences

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Alibaba Group have announced a long-term partnership through 2028. Joining The Olympic Partner (TOP) worldwide sponsorship programme, Alibaba will become the official “Cloud Services” and “E-Commerce Platform Services” Partner, as well as a Founding Partner of the Olympic Channel.  

The partnership was announced today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, with IOC President Thomas Bach, Alibaba Group Founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma and Alibaba Group Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang.  

Thomas Bach, President of the IOC, said, “In this new digital world, Alibaba is uniquely positioned to help the IOC achieve a variety of key objectives outlined in Olympic Agenda 2020, while positively shaping the future of the Olympic Movement. This is a ground-breaking, innovative alliance, and will help drive efficiencies in the organisation of the Olympic Games through 2028, whilst also supporting the global development of digital opportunities including the Olympic Channel.” 

“Alibaba’s partnership with the IOC is built on a foundation of shared values and a common vision for connecting the world and enriching people’s lives,” said Jack Ma, Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group. “We are proud to support Olympic Agenda 2020, using our innovations and technologies to help evolve the Olympic Games for the digital era.” 

Through this partnership, Alibaba’s contributions to the Olympic Movement will include:

  • best-in-class cloud computing infrastructure and cloud services to help the Olympic Games operate more efficiently, effectively and securely, including supporting big data analytics requirements;
  • the creation of a global e-commerce platform for Olympic stakeholders to engage and connect with fans seeking official Olympic licensed products manufactured by the Olympic parties’ official licensees, and selected sports products, on a worldwide basis; and  
  • leveraging Alibaba’s leading digital media technologies and know-how to develop and customise the Olympic Channel for a Chinese audience. 

“Alibaba is proud to empower the International Olympic Committee in a game-changing digital transformation, while moving another step closer toward our goal to serve 2 billion consumers,” said Daniel Zhang, Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Group. “We will leverage our experience in serving a young user base to help connect more young people to the Olympic Movement, helping to strengthen our brand through this historic partnership.” 

Tsunekazu Takeda, the IOC’s Marketing Commission Chair, said, “We are delighted to be working in the long term with Alibaba for the benefit of the Olympic Movement. This strategic partnership underlines the global appeal of the Olympic values and opens an exciting new chapter in this digital age.” 

Alibaba is the first company to make a long-term commitment to the IOC through 2028 and the first Chinese company to commit to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. Alibaba will support the organisers of each edition of the Olympic Games, and the Olympic Movement around the world. These rights will include advertising and promotional use of Olympic marks and imagery from the Olympic Games as well as marks from the National Olympic Committees.  

Alibaba’s global activation rights will include the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 and the Olympic and Olympic Winter Games in 2024, 2026 and 2028 in cities yet to be selected by the IOC.  

Building on Rio

The IOC agreement follows Alibaba’s success with the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics where it’s Shanghai-based division, Alisports, streamed the games in China through a partnership with online video, hub Youku Tudou. According to Alisports, a total of 7.5 billion streams were watched by Olympics fans in China. In July 2016, Alisports announced a licensing agreement with Chinese state-owned CCTV to stream the Rio Olympics via Youku, which is also owned by Alibaba, albeit with a 30-minute delay to CCTV’s own broadcast. According to Alisport, about 380 million viewers logged on to watch – almost half the size of the traditional television audience of 793 million claimed by CCTV.

Alisport said viewers did so using mobile devices by a large majority, “further confirming the mass migration to mobile from desktop PCs and laptops in the world’s largest consumer market”. The company also said that 78 percent of viewers watched via smartphone or tablet versus 20 percent and 2 percent, respectively, via PC and TV.

The company also aired original programs as part of its Olympics programming in addition to streaming the sporting events themselves. The shows, including Champs & Stars, A Date With Stars, Eyewitness Rio, Fitness Prescription, Shopping Rio and Game On, were streamed not just on Youku but also Taobao and Alipay. In total, Alisports original programing received 3.8 billion views, the company said.

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