Tmall Strikes New Ad Alliances Tied to Rio Olympics

With the 2016 Olympics set to take place in Rio this summer, Alibaba Group’s Tmall.com online marketplace has announced the formation of marketing alliances with some of China’s top online and social media companies to help Tmall merchants piggyback on the excitement of the Games to build their brands.

Alliances with streaming-video site Youku Tudou, which was recently acquired by Alibaba Group, as well as micro-blogging site Sina Weibo, search giant Baidu, and digital sports media outlet Sina Sports will offer greater integration and customer interaction through Olympics-related digital advertising and marketing campaigns, according to Alibaba.

The program will allow merchants to interact with customers directly across alliance channels, building connections with consumers and reinforcing brand loyalty while driving sales on brand’s Tmall storefronts, according to Alibaba.

It’s all part of Alibaba’s efforts to make its shopping websites part of a larger “media ecosystem” in which e-tailers can reach millions of new customers wherever they spend time online. The company is encouraging merchants on its platforms to move away from a marketing mindset that is based on competing just on price and quality to digital marketing campaigns in which they engage and interact with consumers to foster greater loyalty.

“Digital marketing has made it possible for brands to more precisely understand what consumers want,” explained Alibaba CMO Chris Tung. “The interactions that happen organically among consumers not only feeds the media with native content, but now also serves as a driving force for consumption.”

A key component of Tmall’s upcoming Olympics campaign is the recent launch of Tmall Fan Zones, merchant mini-sites that are accessed through Tmall’s mobile app. Fan Zones are small-screen extensions of merchants’ online storefronts, where customers can learn more about brands, swap messages, leave comments and find out about the latest sales promotions—kind of a “one-stop customer engagement shop,” according to Alibaba.

During the upcoming Olympics campaign, merchants purchase ads on these affiliate sites through Alibaba’s marketing division Alimama. Consumers who click on an ad displayed while they are, say, watching a video on Youku Toudou will be taken to a merchant’s fan zone, from which they can click through to the merchant’s storefront to purchase products.

Alibaba says it offers merchants access to consumer data from social media and e-commerce sites, giving them a better understanding of their customers as well as the ability to more precisely target receptive customers across the internet. Not only does this help e-tailers conduct more cost-effective marketing campaigns, during the Olympics it can help them stand out from other advertisers at a time when consumers are barraged by marketing and media messages.

“Alibaba’s alliance with Baidu, Youku Tudou, Sina Sports and Sina Weibo, as well as the launch of the Tmall Fan Zone, represents a new marketing model powered by the internet,” Tung said.