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Chinese tech giant Alibaba joins Coke, Visa as a major Olympic sponsor

Lulu Chang

Alibaba has just gone Olympic. At January’s World Economic Forum in Davos, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Alibaba Group announced the formation of a long-term partnership that will last through 2028. As part of the new collaboration, Alibaba has become the official “Cloud Services” and “E-Commerce Platform Services” partner of the Olympics, as well as a Founding Partner of the Olympic Channel. And now, we have a bit more insight into what the company’s sponsorship looks like.

This weekend, Alibaba announced a project to create an athletes’ village that is “smarter” and more connected, all while making Olympic stakeholders “more money,” according to executives. While this and other similar projects are still in concept phases, IOC president Thomas Bach noted that a number of Alibaba’s plans “can become operational pretty soon.” Unfortunately, “pretty soon” probably means the next Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022.

One of the major innovations will be the “sports brain,” a suite of software that is meant to improve how sporting events are run from behind the scenes. Alibaba claims that it “enables various stakeholders to leverage cloud technologies to deliver the future of sports events in a secure, stable, and cost-effective manner and to provide fans with a convenient and engaging experience.” In the meantime, the company promises to provide the current Olympics with the necessary computing infrastructure and cloud services to help digitize operations and become more effective and secure for fans and athletes alike.

“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,” said Thomas Bach, President of the IOC. “This is a ground-breaking, innovative alliance, and will help drive efficiencies in the organization of the Olympic Games through 2028, whilst also supporting the global development of digital opportunities including the Olympic Channel.”

The move puts Alibaba on a global stage, alongside other major sponsors of the games like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Visa. While already a household name in China and across much of Asia, Jack Ma’s company has yet to truly break ground in the western hemisphere.

“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 Ma, who founded the Alibaba Group back in 1999. “We are proud to support Olympic Agenda 2020, using our innovations and technologies to help evolve the Olympic Games for the digital era.”

The company will also create an e-commerce platform that will help sell Olympic licensed products and various sports products the world over.

“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.

Tsunekazu Takeda, the IOC’s Marketing Commission Chair, concluded, “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.”