Alibaba CMO on What’s In Store for Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022

Alibaba scored a number of firsts at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. It debuted as a TOP Partner with the International Olympic Committee, its first Games since agreeing to a 12-year relationship as the exclusive provider of cloud infrastructure, cloud services and e-commerce platform development services. The Chinese tech giant also rolled out its first global television advertising campaign just before the games. And, in the Olympic Park, it showcased technology it hopes will futurize the Olympic Games.

As the Winter Games in South Korea draw to a close, Chief Marketing Officer Chris Tung spoke with Alizila. He reflected on what Alibaba has achieved so far, what the company has learned and what its vision and plans are for future Olympic Games.

How do you think things have gone for Alibaba and its showcase?

What’s exciting about this debut experience is we’ve had upwards of 100,000 visitors who have come to our pavilion. I think the Alibaba showcase has probably become one of most-popular sites in the park. The feedback about our showcase has been amazing. People keep telling us they’ve seen our commitment, we’re addressing the right pain points that they’ve been looking to resolve over the years. We’re on the right track and we should be able to contribute to elevate the Games in the future.

Why is the partnership so important to Alibaba?

Joining the TOP Partner Program is a very important and integral part of our globalization strategy. It goes way beyond a marketing sponsorship. It is a strategic partnership that we are all committed to for 12 years to take the Olympic Games into a digital era with Alibaba’s cloud-computing technology

What does Alibaba think the future of the Olympic Games looks like?

We see the future Olympic Games to be powered by cloud computing and artificial intelligence. The Games should be for each individual, instead of one Games meant for everyone. It should be a personalized experience. Whether you’re witnessing the games onsite, or in front of the TV, you should feel that it’s a Games for you. Everything should be personalized, based on the data and the intelligence.

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We feel no matter how you consume the Games, there should not be any barriers. For example, if you’ve made the effort to go to the Games, there should be a smart app on your phone that takes you from game to game, barrier-free. It should be a seamlessly optimized experience. If you are watching the Games in front of the TV at home, you should  be provided an experience that allows you to feel the ultimate passion of the sport even more. There are a lot of things that can be added to a traditional broadcast style for a more-personalized digital way of engaging with the Games.

Any specific areas or applications Alibaba will be focusing on in its quest to futurize the Olympic Games?

Our goal for the future is to engage more young people with digital technologies and take the Games into the digital era. We want to make the event more relevant to a broader audience onsite and online.

The Alibaba Olympic Games Showcase illustrates our vision for the future of the Olympics with cloud computing, and other cloud-powered technologies. In this showcase, you can see how the Alibaba Cloud Services have the ability to help enhance the spectator experience during the Games support operations during the Games, and increase the efficiency of the organizing committees. Those are just some of the ideas we have for the future of the Games.

Realistically, when will we see the technologies in your showcase turn into actual products and services on the ground at the Olympic Games?

Considering the lead time of technological development, it’s fair to say most of the ideas you see in our showcase will be brought to life for Beijing 2022. For Tokyo 2020, we’ll increase our involvement by doing a few things. For example, our cloud technology could help Chinese Olympics fans and tourists to plan a smooth and enjoyable trip to Tokyo. We will also introduce many great Japanese brands and products to consumers around the world.

A lot of our cloud-based innovation seen in our pavilion could be realized in Beijing 2022 and thereafter, to Paris in 2024 and all the way to Los Angeles in 2028.

Alibaba launched its first television advertising campaign just ahead of the Olympic Winter Games. How has it been received so far?

The concept of “to the Greatness of Small” is really authentic to who we are as a company. It’s what we stand for. All employees at Alibaba live and breathe the spirit of supporting small businesses and young people around the world. This is what we do with our technology. This is our voice for the Olympics. I’m very excited to see we’ve received great feedback with close to 40 million views on major digital platforms around the world. We’re very excited to have this chance to introduce who we are to the world.

What has your own experience been at PyeongChang 2018?

Before we joined the Olympic family as a TOP Partner, people who have experience with the Olympic Games always advised me by saying, “Hey, Chris. The Olympics are such a unique thing. You do not understand fully until you experience them yourself.” This is just an amazing experience for me.

What, in particular, has impressed you at these Games?

The passion for pursuing perfection. This is the ultimate stage for people to compete to win. The gold medal is more than just a physical object. Ultimately, it’s about the will to succeed. We share that ultimate level of sportsmanship in the way we want to contribute as a TOP Partner. We keep observing and keep asking what we can do better. As an internet company, we see there is no boundary for us.

As we start to understand what the Olympic Games mean to us, we’ve begun to find so many opportunities for what we can do with technology. This is such an authoritative, yet traditional Games; full of passion, humanity. Yet, it could be further elevated with digital technologies to become even more relevant for younger generations. It’s a huge opportunity to transform the Games to a digital level, while keeping the essence of the Olympic spirit.