In 2015 the e-commerce giant Alibaba set up a new venture with Sina Cooperation and created Alibaba Sports and has over the course of two years invested mainly in football, eSports and streaming deals in an attempt to change the Chinese sports culture. To an effect they are succeeding in their ploy.
The reason for the founding of Alibaba Sport is simple, it fits within the plans from the Chinese government. The government wants the sports market to reach a value of $800 billion in 2025. In 2015 it generated $62 billion. To that end, policymakers three years ago pushed through a plan that cut taxes for private companies operating in the sector, cut some of the red tape that slowed business and encouraged both domestic and foreign investment. We’ve talked about how this plan has pushed FIFA towards the Asian market, but it didn’t take long for the domestic investors to take notice either. Enter on the stage: Alibaba Sports.
Having made investments in Chinese football, the company always had a bigger target in mind and they became Olympic sponsors (with an $800 million deal) earlier this year. With the next three Olympiads taking place in Asia, this is only a logical investment. The influence of the tech giant is far reaching and with its newest push on eSports, we might get to find out exactly how far. In July 2016, it already signed a $150 million strategic partnership with the International eSports Federation (IeSF). Through its Olympic connection, however, it struck a deal with the Olympic Council of Asia to get eSports included as a medal sport in the 2022 Asian Olympics. Not coincidentally, these will be held in Hangzhou, Alibaba’s home base. Can they carry the flag for eSports even further to the Olympic Games? That remains to be seen.
Nonetheless, this is a call to action for the European eSports market. If European brands want to have a marketing platform to build on for the next decade, it’s simply impossible to leave eSports out of the equation.