Ali Sports set to make a splash with fans

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By MENGJING

Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd said onWed­nes­day that it was set­ting up a new com­pany to tap into China’s multi-tril­lionyuan sports mar­ket.

The newly founded com­pany with a name that can be di­rectly trans­lated into Ali Sports is ex­pected to use dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy to trans­form the en­tire in­dus­trial chain of China’s tra­di­tional sports in­dus­try, said a state­ment from Alibaba.

Ac­cord­ing to the state­ment, Alibaba Group is the con­trol­ling share­holder of Ali Sports, and other two in­vestors are China’s online media com­pany Sina Corp and pri­vate eq­uity firm Yun­feng Cap­i­tal, which is co-founded by Alibaba chair­man JackMa.

Zhang Yong, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Alibaba, said that sports is a busi­ness that can bring hap­pi­ness and health to peo­ple. “Ali Sports does not want to serve purely as an online ac­cess to sports in­dus­try. We want to lever­age the re­sources of Alibaba’s dig­i­tal ecosys­tem to help up­grade the en­tire sports in­dus­try, bring­ing bet­ter ser­vices to con­sumers, ath­letes as well as sports fans,” he said.

Zhang Yong will serve as the chair­man of Ali Sports and Zhang Dazhong, the for­mer vice-pres­i­dent of Shang­hai Media Group, will head the new sports unit as CEO, said the state­ment.

Zhang Dazhong is known in the sports in­dus­try as the per­son­who­broughtNa­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion pro­grams from the United States to Chi­nese tele­vi­sion sets.

The State Coun­cil set a goal in Oc­to­ber 2014 to in­volve 500 mil­lion peo­ple in sports-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties and cre­ate a sports in­dus­try that would be worth 5 tril­lion yuan ($784 bil­lion) by 2025.

An­a­lysts said the sports in­dus­try in China has im­mense growth po­ten­tial. “If Alibaba did it right, it can be a new pow­er­house for the com­pany’s fu­ture growth,” said Jiang Qian, an an­a­lyst with Analysys In­ter­na­tional, a mar­ket re­search firm.

As a dom­i­nant player inChina’s online shop­ping in­dus­try, Alibaba has gained 367 mil­lion ac­tive users ev­ery year and thou­sands of sports brands have set up vir­tual stores on its online shop­ping plat­forms.

“Apart from e-com­merce, Alibaba’s busi­ness ecosys­tem also has ad­van­tages in media, cloud com­put­ing and smart de­vices, which can be in­te­grated per­fectly with the sports in­dus­try,” said Jiang.

For ex­am­ple, online video site Youku Tu­dou, in which Alibaba has stakes, can broad­cast sports events, she said.

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