By Barry Janoff
January 19, 2017: The Olympic Games have 100s of millions of followers.
Alibaba’s e-commerce sites have 100s of millions of consumers.
Together, they plan to reach even more people while strengthening their respective brands and objectives.
Calling it a partnership that will "transform the Olympic movement," the International Olympic Committee on Thursday unveiled a long-term alliance with Alibaba Group naming the firm a top-tier partner through 2028.
The deal names Alibaba as the official "cloud services" and "e-commerce platform services" partner with the IOC, as well as a founding partner of the Olympic Channel. Alibaba is the first company to commit to the IOC through 2028.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
The alliance covers the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, 2022 Winter Games in Alibaba’s home country China (Beijing) and the Summer and Winter Olympic Games in 2024, 2026 and 2028 in cities yet to be selected by the IOC.
Alibaba, founded in 1999, is regarded as the largest e-commerce company in China and among the largest in the world, laying claim to hundreds of millions of visitors and millions of businesses.
The partnership was unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, attended by IOC president Thomas Bach (pictured right), Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman Jack Ma (pictured left) and Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang.
"Our vision and strategy is to focus on happiness and health. Get more young people (involved) in sports," said Ma during a press conference to share details of the alliance. "The same values as the IOC."
According to Bach, who called the alliance "a strategic partnership in the digital world that will transform the Olympic movement," the IOC-Alibaba union would provide three major roles: "First, their first-in-class cloud technology will help the IOC to organize the Olympic Games more efficiently, more effectively and more securely; and will open for us the door to big data analytics.
"Second, with the creation of a global e-commerce platform, all our stakeholders, including our 206 national Olympic committees, will e able to engage and connect better with all the fans looking for Olympic licensed products. Third, with their assistance to the Olympic Channel, where they will create even better opportunities for the billions of Olympic fans around the world.
"So you can understand why the IOC is so excited about this partnership," said Bach.
IOC global partners currently include Atos, Coca-Cola, Bridgestone, Dow, GE, McDonald’s, Omega, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, Toyota and Visa.
"Alibaba is proud to empower the IOC in a game-changing digital transformation, while moving another step closer toward our goal to serve two billion consumers."
The IOC said Alibaba would support the organizers of each edition of the Olympic Games, and the Olympic Movement around the world, with rights that include advertising and promotional use of Olympic marks and imagery from the Olympic Games as well as marks from the National Olympic Committees.
"We serve about 500 million consumers, and they want to be part of the Olympic movement, to participate," said Daniel Zhang, CEO for Alibaba Group, said during the press conference. "We will work to make Olympic licensed products available to the world.
"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 two billion consumers. 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," said Zhang.
A major goal for the IOC and Alibaba is to reduce the amount of counterfeit Olympics-related products that are constantly being put on the market.
Alibaba this month helped to form the Big Data Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance, which use anti-counterfeiting technologies to remove counterfeit listings from online consumer platforms, such as Alibaba’s own Taobao.
The organization currently includes some 20 brands, including Louis Vuitton, Samsung, Mars, Swarovsk and Amway,
Imports of counterfeit and pirated goods total nearly half a trillion dollars a year, or around 2.5% of global imports, with China the top producer with over 63% of the world's seized fake goods, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
U.S., Italian and French brands the hardest hit and many of the proceeds going to organized crime, according to OECD and the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office.
"This is something I will fight for, that our team will fight for," said Ma. "We have the world’s leading technology to fight it. We have 2,000 people working in this. It is the largest anti-counterfeit team in the world. More than one billion RMB ($145.4 billion U.S.) every year.
"We can bring a lot of value to the Olympic Games with our technology, cloud computing and Internet technology that can empower to reach and interact with the Olympic Games. I am a believer in globalization, and the Olympics are the spirit of globalization. To have young people connect with each other. To have every country connect with each other.
"We were founded in China, but we were built for the world," said Ma.
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