From a vision to real life through internet: how is possible to combine sport and e-commerce? Maybe Alisports is the answer, but there’s still much more to come, according to Wang Yiming
Last week we had the opportunity to have a friendly chat with Mr. Wang Yiming, CMO of Alisports.com. The occasion was Race 2 of UIM X-CAT World Championship in Stresa, Italy, on Maggiore Lake. How is possible to combine sport and e-commerce? Maybe the answers is Alisport, the newborn service of Aligroup that turning chinese consumers into sport lovers. The slogan of Alisports is to make sports simple, but which is the long-term strategy for the company?
Good morning Mr. Wang and welcome to Italy. Well, you know in western countries we just started to understand what is Alibaba and what’s is its core business, but in other countries, such as Italy, Alibaba is still a mysterious company, don’t even think about Alisports. First, how the concept of Alisport came about? And why the decision to invest in sport? Is it really possible to combine sport industry with e-commerce, video making or marketing?
Jack Ma has a vision for Alisports: Health and Happiness. Having this in mind, Jack Ma set up the one and only goal for Alisports to build a platform for sports economy in China. As simple as the goal sounds, it is our task to figure out how to achieve it. The whole world is curious to find out what will happen with Alisports and how will Alisports reach its goal.
Is Alisports a media agency or merely a sports game organizer? The idea of building a platform for sports economy seems to be difficult for the public to understand. Instead of trying to explain what our goal is, we focus on doing our job. Through trial and error, we are not diverted from our goal. Having Alibaba as our parent company, we know better to build something unique out of Alibaba’s strong and time-proven ecosystem. An unprecedented advantage is given at the birth of Alisports running the blood of both sports and e-commerce.
Alibaba has given the world treasures like Taobao and Double Eleven. Shopping online has become something extremely fun for everyone. Alisports can also make sports fun for everyone to shop. Alisports believes sports is for everyone to enjoy and benefit from, just like what Alisports wants for everyone – to stay healthy and happy.
Could you give me an example of this product?
Sure, let’s open Alipay – better known in western countries such as Ant Financial – then choose among services Alisports. And here we are, this is Alisport. With the help of internet, we came up with the idea of promoting online shopping by offline exercising and vice versa. We call it “calorie bank”.
Users of this bank get virtual coins by burning calories every day. In other words, the amount of calories burnt equalizes the number of virtual coins and the coins equalize real money and therefore is eligible for consumption on various e-commerce platforms of Alibaba.
So, if i’m wrong just tell me, now thanks this new service, people know how much they’ve done and will able to count and program they’re activities, isn’t?
Yes, to be more precise, Alisports highlights the importance of health even for people who are not aware of how many exercises they’ve done or how to calculate the amount of calories they’ve burnt by exercising. As a starter, we’ve created an online system called “calorie bank” to encourage online consumption by exercising. It is our goal to have as many people as possible to join our calorie bank. As a matter of fact, 14 million people have registered as users of the bank in less than a year.
Calorie bank started off on Alipay and is expanding into other platforms of Alibaba. This year Alisports has acquired a fitness APP of 55 million users called Ledongli – 乐动力 – which will help spread the calorie bank to more people. For now we calculate the number of calories burnt through step count. But we will involve more convertible sports like swimming, table tennis and other fitness programs for users to earn virtual coins at our bank.
So through your Alisport you’re not just selling sport clothes, but even those kind of products – such as protein bars, vitamins etc – connected with sport activities, is it correct?
Yes. We don’t just sell sports related articles, we also provide many services on our platform. But we’re not playing a role of salesman, rather we’re building a platform to connect the sports behavior of our users with their consumption behaviors. For both online and offline activities, our platform offers to convert offline exercises to virtual coins for online purchasing.
To exercise is to burn calories and gain virtual coins to spend on various e-commerce platforms of Alibaba. From Tmall, Taobao to Youku online stream, Damai ticketing, Fliggy travelling and so on, almost any service platforms that you could think of. The idea is to make it fun for everyone to exercise and spend afterwards in as many ways as possible.
I see, this is a kind of business boosted by 乐动力 or Alisport, is just for Chinese market or it’s possible to be open to other countries? Let me explain. There are countries such as Canada, USA, Netherlands even Italy where doing – for example – outdoor sport is very common. Nevertheless we have different culture connected to shopping experience, do you think is it possible grow in other countries?
Yes, of course, I think it’s very interesting. Because sport could very be a kind of “glue” let people be friend and talk without prejudices, so why not. But now we’re still focusing how to grow this newborn function.
Let’s talk now about your partnership. Alisports already sign a partnership with FIFA on Club World Cup. We could understand soccer, in recent years is becoming more popular in China, but why choose and sing a partnership with sports that lack significant fan base in China? Is it a strategy to become more international?
A: Working with FIFA on the Club World Cup is the first big project received international attention since the establishment of Alisports. Our parent company Alibaba is more than a FIFA title sponsor. Alibaba aims to help FIFA promote football worldwide by using Alibaba Cloud. Since our cooperation in December 2015, we have been pushing hard to bring FIFA Club World Cup to China. Besides football, we are also working with other international sports federations to benefit Chinese sports industry.
Beijing and Guangzhou have held Asian Games, Shanghai the FINA World Championships. In 2022, Asian Games will take place in Hangzhou. This year the grand finals of World Electronic Sports Games (created by Alisports) also took place in Haikou. More Chinese cities are hosting major tournaments and sports games to raise their images. In doing so, the cities benefit and so are the citizens. Alisports aims to help more cities to do that.
According to this, I’m just thinking of those cities like Chongqing or Chengdu, for example, that are growing so fast, but in western countries are still unknown realities. Is it correct saying that brought different sport initiatives, maybe in partnership with Alisport, we could reduce this cultural-economic gap between China and western countries? And vice versa, of course.
Yes. On the other hand, “Health and Happiness” is open for everyone and every city. Everyone is able to enjoy sports whenever and wherever he goes. Take us and Ant Financial for example, (Ant Financial was founded by Alipay in 2004. Starting from 2013, Alipay was rebranded as Ant Financial Services to provide services for small and micro businesses.) the goal of Ant Financial is to bring more opportunities for small and micro businesses.
In the sports world, there’s also a lot of games and teams that need opportunities to develop. Ant Financial has sponsored Qiong Zhong Women Football Team from Hainan and Chinese Women Univeristy Football Association, in the hope of getting more attention and opportunities for young Chinese women to participate in sports and enjoy the changes made by sports.
Do you think Alisport, in the future, could help a dialogue between sport federation of different countries, for example swimming, in order to enjoy a friendly exchange of experiences and know-how?
I think it’s possible, but like I said, Alisports does not face to professional sports, but we serve all the ordinary people who are participating in sports . Sport is culture as well, not just business. We especially hope to cultivate the spirit of teamwork and an unyielding attitude through sports. Winning is a result, but not the real goal of sport. The spirit is with you, you can win in different “games” in your life. Jack Ma also said this sport spirit is very important.
We also especially want to try to convert Alibaba consumers into sports lovers. Down the line the consumption or money spent on sports will be much more than other product categories. So we hope to set up our strategic relations with different associations governing different sports around the world to position ourselves to take advantage of that trend.
Like I said earlier, Alisports is not for some particular top sports, it’s for everyone. We believe in the Olympic spirits and we want to share it with everyone else. To shape the spirits and to build the qualities. Result oriented win does not speak for sports. It’s the sportsmanship that helps shape characters who prevail in our lives.