Economy First Look

Alibaba is now a major Olympic sponsor: What can it bring to the global movement?

The Chinese e-commerce company on Thursday announced its long-term partnership with the International Olympic Committee through 2028, becoming the official cloud services provider of the Olympics.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, right, from Germany exchanges gifts with China's Jack Ma, left, the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, during a press conference at the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.
Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP
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It has been a busy month for Alibaba and its executive chairman Jack Ma.

After Mr. Ma’s meeting with President-elect Donald Trump last Tuesday, the Chinese e-commerce company on Thursday announced its long-term partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) through 2028, becoming the official cloud services provider of the Olympics.  

This new deal, potentially the single biggest in the committee’s history, according to Bloomberg, signifies a shift in the Olympic movement, as it tries to appeal to a global audience in the digital age. 

"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," IOC President Thomas Bach said at a joint news conference. "This is a ground-breaking, innovative alliance, and will help drive efficiencies in the organization of the Olympic Games through 2028."

The agreement, announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, made Alibaba the first Chinese company to become a major sponsor of the Olympics, joining 12 other international companies, including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Visa.

"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," Ma, who founded the company 18 years ago, said. "We are proud to support Olympic Agenda 2020, using our innovations and technologies to help evolve the Olympic Games for the digital era."

Providing cloud computing infrastructure and a global e-commerce platform for licensed products, Alibaba will also support the development of the $500 million, newly created digital platform the Olympic Channel in China. 

"We will leverage our experience in serving a young user base to help connect more young people to the Olympic Movement," said Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s chief executive officer. 

In return, the Chinese company will have the advertising and promotional rights to use Olympic makes and imagery from three consecutive games hosted in Asia – South Korea’s 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Games and Beijing’s 2022 Winter Games – in addition to the Games in 2024, 2026, and 2028, yet to be assigned. 

Although no financial details were disclosed, Reuters reports that major sponsors pay around $100 million per four-year cycle for one summer and one winter Game.

Alibaba, which calls itself "a champion of small business," has been a long-term target of criticism from the US trade representative, who said the company’s online marketplace is a "notorious" market for counterfeit goods. 

Saying that Alibaba has "the largest anti-counterfeit team in the world," Ma hopes this new accord will help tackle this issue.

The announcement comes nine days after Ma's visit to the Trump Tower, during which the Chinese millionaire pledged to create 1 million jobs in the United States through the company’s digital platform. 

This new alliance is seen as another step from the Chinese company to repair its image and gain more global exposure as it aims to become a globally recognized brand.  

"We are founded in China but are built for the world," Ma said. 

This story includes materials from the Associated Press and Reuters. 

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