How Alibaba will leverage cloud and ecommerce at PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games 2018 and Beijing 2022 Olympics


Chinese giant Alibaba is working on the best-in-class cloud-computing infrastructure and services to ensure the Olympic Games operate more efficiently, effectively, and securely.

In January 2017, Alibaba Group and the International Olympic Committee(IOC) had jointly announced a long-term, strategic partnership. Alibaba was the first partner to make a 10-year commitment, through 2028, to the IOC. As a part of The Olympic Partners worldwide partnership programme, the Hangzhou-headquartered Alibaba Group became the official “Cloud Services” and “Ecommerce Platform Services” partner for the Games.

Image credit- Aditya Ranade

On Monday, ahead of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, Alibaba Chief Marketing Officer Chris Tung made a presentation and spoke to global media about how the partnership promises to be transformative for both Alibaba and the Games, and the technological solutions that Alibaba aims to leverage to get more youngsters to witness and participate in the Games. 

The story so far

Chris noted that the partnership was a defining moment for Alibaba. It supports and tells the story of what Alibaba has stood for from day one - supporting the small player and leveraging technology to help the underdog succeed in the global marketplace. 

The first company Jack Ma and his fellow founders built 18 years ago was to help small businesses in China export their products to the world. They then built Taobao, considered to be the largest online marketplace in the world, home to millions of small merchants who started businesses and built brands. Chris said,

Just 19 years ago, Alibaba was a company of 18 people operating from Jack Ma’s apartment in Hangzhou. What each person shared was a commitment to a singular vision – to make it easy for even the smallest of businesses to succeed on a global stage.

The company believes that technology can level the playing field, and that even small companies should be able to be global companies.

Chris noted that their approach has a lot of in common with the Olympic Games. Before the Games start, every athlete comes in as an equal. Every athlete has a chance to compete and win on this global stage.

Chris said,

“We believe our mission is the perfect match with the Olympic spirit. That’s the message we want everyone to hear, loud and clear, from us during the Games.”

Alibaba's core concept is “to the greatness of small.” 

According to a report from Bloomberg, the 10-year partnership and sponsorship deal between the Alibaba Group and IOC is worth an estimated $800 million.

Chris said that as part of the partnership, Alibaba would provide cloud-computing infrastructure and services to transform the Games for the digital era. On the ecommerce front, Alibaba will create a global platform for Olympic stakeholders to engage and connect with fans seeking official Olympic-licensed products.

Olympic Games on ‘the cloud’

Chris noted that Alibaba has enabled small and medium-sized enterprises and young entrepreneurs to succeed on their platform by leveraging Alibaba's data and ecommerce technology. He said that over the next 10 years, the infrastructure of hosting and operating Olympic Games will run on Alibaba Cloud. Alibaba sees this as huge opportunity to help the IOC and Organising Committees manage the costs of staging the Olympic Games. Their core concept is the future of the “Olympic Games on the cloud”.

Chris said,

Cloud is proven to be most cost-effective IT infrastructure. As we migrate more core technology modules to the cloud, a lot of the technology and data can be more easily organised and reused by the next Organising Committee. That’s great from a cost and operational-efficiency standpoint. And it’s a concrete example of how you can use big data and cloud-computing technology to transform the Olympic Games. 

An online sports hub

With deep experience in ecommerce, Alibaba Group can create an online sports hub for the IOC, offering a destination that combines ecommerce, content, Olympic Games news and information about various Olympic sports and athletes.

Alibaba gained global attention in November 2017, when it clocked $25.3 billion in GMV in 24 hours during the country's Single's Day sale. Alibaba had said one of the many things that helped them achieve this feat was their system’s ability to manage the spike of up to 3,25,000 orders per second at peak, coming through this “24-hour stress test”, Chris said,

We see e-commerce as a way to engage people who love sports worldwide. Our vision is to create a destination that combines e-commerce, content, news, and interesting information about the sports and top athletes in the Games.

Chris also noted that Alibaba has been in talks and is working with other IOC partners like P&G, Coca-Cola, Samsung and Intel to help them deliver on their Olympic-related projects, as well as getting their input on what future Games should look like. For example, for consumer products makers like P&G, Panasonic, and Samsung, Alibaba has been building campaigns on their platform to showcase their Olympic-themed products to consumers.

Improving fan experience

Alibaba wants to showcase solutions to make the operations of the Games more efficient, effective, and secure while also enhancing the fan experience by leveraging the group’s cloud-based technology. These include facial recognition, travel guidance, enhanced content creation capabilities for fans, athletes and the media, and re-imagined ecommerce capabilities for purchasing official merchandise. The future of the Games as imagined by Alibaba Group will be on display in PyeongChang 2018.

Chris said,

We have identified the opportunities and will use this showcase to demonstrate potential future solutions using our technology...Also, it’s important for the IOC to make the Olympic Games and participating athletes more appealing to a younger generation. That’s where the Olympic Channel project comes in.

As a founding partner of the Olympic Channel and owner of various media assets, such as Youku video platform, Alibaba Group aims to make the Games more appealing to a younger generation over the years, especially in China.

Vision for Beijing 2022 

Alibaba launched a storefront on their Tmall marketplace for the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games(BOCOG), a few weeks ago. Chris said that this was the first time they've had their own flagship store online, and business is currently good. Alibaba is identifying the types of consumers already showing interest in Beijing 2022 and looking to leverage the information to help drive more traffic for BOCOG. Chris said,

“This is just one example of how we can leverage ecommerce and technology to help future Organising Committees...Beijing 2022 will be a very, very critical year for us to demonstrate what we can do to transform the Games. We’ve been working with not only IOC, but also the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) to identify the key areas for transformation. The idea is really to make Beijing 2022 a cloud-based Olympic Games.”

Chris envisions that consumers will have a very different experience when they go to the Games, from buying tickets and souvenirs to locating meaningful events in the host city, via mobile technology.



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