Transforming the Olympic Games for the Digital Era
Alibaba Chief Marketing Officer Chris Tung discusses how the Chinese e-commerce giant is helping the International Olympics Committee transform the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic games for the digital era. He speaks with Bloomberg’s Stephen Engle.
Host: The 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing in just six months time. Can you believe it? China’s biggest e-commerce company, Alibaba, is helping the International Olympics Committee transform the games for the digital era, just as it’s done with retail across the country. Bloomberg’s Stephen Engle spoke exclusively with Alibaba’s Chris Tung in this week’s retail transformed.
Chris Tung: Alibaba is the cloud services and e-commerce worldwide pioneer of the Olympic games. A partnership started in 2017 as a 12 year commitment, and we have been working on many initiatives to drive digital transformation of the games starting from Tokyo 2020. And indeed, the Tokyo 2020 is an extraordinary Olympic games. Now with the special set, with the audience and everything, but it’s also one of the most innovative games with many new technologies being applied for the first time. One of the most significant examples is that Olympic broadcasting services OBS is hosted in the cloud for the very first time. And to many broadcasters, this is perhaps the biggest technological change for more than half a century since the introduction of satellite transmission during the last also Tokyo games in 1964. I think as a global technology company, we hope to help create a more connected, engaging, safe and efficient Olympic games experience. That’s why you see, yeah, this is a very special games for us.
Stephen Engle: How are these cloud services that Alibaba provides through OBS cloud, how are they going to be propelled even further in the Beijing games in 2022, just a few months from now?
Chris Tung: Yeah, I think Tokyo 2020 marks the very beginning of our digital transformation journey for the Olympic games. A lot of innovations that were being powered by Alibaba cloud, will take place along the way. We do have a clear roadmap for the upcoming games, Beijing included for sure. So you see, not only are we going to keep advancing our support for the broadcasters with all OBS cloud, but you’re going to see we’re going to apply quite a lot of AI and cloud technologies to make the game more efficient and smarter and all that.
Stephen Engle: What’s the revenue boost, though? I mean, of course, on singles day, you have gross merchandise value. You have a number that you can peg to. What is the tangible impact on revenue for you because of your sponsorship? Which I’m sure cost a lot of money. I know you have not revealed how much your 10 year partnership you spent on that, but again, what are you getting back from it in dollar terms?
Chris Tung: Like I said, credibility is priceless. After we released the news that this Tokyo game is supported by OBS cloud, to powered by Alibaba cloud, we’ve got so many requests from our clients, from all over the world asking about how that works and how their business can be benefit from Alibaba cloud technology. I don’t think there’s a very good way to quantify the business benefits we’re getting, but this is really the growth of brand power by associating with the largest event in the world and in a very positive way.
Stephen Engle: You talked about the credibility that you gained from sponsoring these games. How would you go ahead and market the company at a time when you’re also under pressure at home because of regulators? You guys have been kind of low profile for 10 months. Now you all of a sudden have to be high profile. How do you do that?
Chris Tung: I don’t think we raise or lower our profile for anything, we keep doing what we have to do. And as you probably know, our mission is really to make it easy to do business anywhere with our technology for all the brands that we’re working with. So, of course, it’s important to comply with all the regulations that all the markets we’re in. So this is something we will keep but make sure we keep doing. And the most important thing is still driving the growth. And because the economy is relying on a lot of technology more and more nowadays and we are being the leader in the industry, we want to make sure that we’re using the latest technology to provide the best insight, to drive growth for our partners on our platform. That’s the most important thing.
*Bloomberg contributed to this content
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