It’s not just about an Olympic partner logo, says Alibaba CMO Chris Tung

Alibaba CMO Chris Tung explains the strategy behind its Olympics sponsorship

Last month, Alibaba announced a partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that will give it major sponsorship credentials until 2018.

Alibaba CMO Chris Tung says Alibaba’s ambitions aren’t just to use the logo as a badge of honour but to show the world how its technology works by transforming the game.

“What’s important is not just a worldwide Olympic partner logo, but to keep showcasing what we have achieved to change the game,” he told The Drum.

The deal, which covers three consecutive Olympics games, will see Alibaba become the main technology sponsor. Alibaba announced that it is going to build an e-commerce site for all the Olympic brand sponsors, as well as using its technology to create efficiencies via the internet of things (IoT) at games.

Another core part of the program is using its technology to take the Olympics Channel, an online content platform, to China for the first time. Tung said one of the aims of the sponsorship for Alibaba was to grow awareness of sports with young people by evolving the games to a 365 day-a-year phenomenon online.

“Our joint goal and ambition is to transform the game from the world’s most watched sports competition that happens every four years, to a passion point in life. That content can engage, especially younger generations, on a 365 day continuous fashion. To make it more relevant to younger generations and engage sports generations on a daily basis, it will take digital tech and platforms to do so.

It is a model revolution, rather than a way to hold the Olympics every four years in a more cost efficient way. That is part of it but it is not our strategic thinking,” he added.

Tung says the strategy is already taking shape, with task forces created on both the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Alibaba sides of the business that are creating “plans for programmes that are going to have an impact on game and the way IOC operates.”

The timing of it, according to Tung, is more about how ready Alibaba is as a global technology business, than the fact that the next three games are being held close to Alibaba’s home turf of China.

“I think the timing for the partnership is perfect, not just because the next few are relevant to our development plans of globalisation, but more so that Alibaba Group is well prepared to stage our business globally at this point,” he explained.

He said Alibaba Cloud has 14 offices in all key continents . The e-commerce business is already in 200 markets and reaches more than 1 billion people. “We want to reach 2 billion in the coming few years via e-commerce and we think the group is ready to join the global partnership and contribute to help elevate the game. The next locations were not a decision factor — we are ready to take on the global challenge and not a region-by-region roadmap.”

He concluded that the ultimate measurement for Alibaba is whether it can contribute to its value of creating happiness for customers. A value that also powers its annual 11.11 festival, or Singles Day. On a more granular level, the marketing teams will be measuring brand uplift and how positively the business is being received for its part in the games.

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