Sports Bank powers the future for the Alisports Unicorn

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Alisports Group has marked the third anniversary of its founding by showcasing a virtual “sports banking” initiative the Chinese company hopes will extend its reach across a nation whose citizens are increasingly making exercise a part of their daily lives.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has in recent years been vocal in his desire to make the country more active, throwing his weight and considerable government support behind promoting the “Olympic spirit” of participation in China.

Alisports – the sports division of the multi-national Alibaba Group conglomerate – was founded by Zhang Dazhong with the support of the Alibaba Group in 2015 and has since developed its interests across the likes of sports broadcasting and marketing, event staging and eSports.

The company was given a “Unicorn” status in 2017 – meaning the start-up had passed US$1 billion in valuation – as it continues to explore opportunities in a mainland Chinese sports industry that is estimated to be worth around five trillion RMB (USD 728 billion) by 2025.

Alisports are helping take sports forward in China,” said Wei Jizhong, the life-time honorary president of the Olympic Council of Asia.

A veteran player in the development of sports in China – and across Asia – Wei was in Chongqing as a guest of Alisports for its birthday celebrations. Wei said he had kept close watch on the company’s emergence.

“The fact that Alibaba is built on the internet means it has access to and can expand to all industries, not just sports. This means also that Alisports can explore developments that are new and are unique. There are few companies that can match this kind of reach, and that can develop these sides of modern sports.”

Alisports’ Sports Bank is one such initiative and one that gives consumers the opportunity to “earn when they burn” calories. The application measures how much exercise people do daily, and it rewards them with virtual credit for their efforts, credit which can then be spent across Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms. So far more than 50 million people have signed on for Sports Bank under the Sports Service on Alipay, and Alisports recently added 55 million users by acquiring and combing the Ledongli sports app to this Sports Bank virtual community.

A growing share of China’s sports market is being taken up by eSports – with one in five people in this nation of 1.4 billion having played some form of eSports, according to industry reports. The local industry itself is expected to be worth around US$1.5 billion by 2020.

Alisports held a third birthday “partner convention” at the Ambassador Hotel in the sprawling southwest port city of Chongqing on Sunday after signing a strategic partnership with the local sport bureau, the Chongqing High Tech Zone and the Chongqing Jiulongpo District.

Alisports and these partners will now work towards staging eSports events in the city of around 30 million people, while developing a local version of the SportsBank platform and a “WESG [World Electronic SportsGames] Block” in the city’s Shiqiaopu Commercial Zone designed to encourage and support the development of the eSports industry.

Another initiative Alisports continues to develop is its Campus Sports programme, held in conjunction with the China University Football Association, the China University Basketball Association, and the China University Marathon Association. In the past this programme has seen the likes of Pac-12 basketball teams UCLA and Georgia Tech play in Shanghai, while UC Berkeley will face Yale in that city this November.

Campus Sports also organised the China-U.S. University Sports and Education Summit in 2016 with its aim being “to share, inspire, and innovate to explore the differences between American and Chinese education systems, to discuss how cooperation and communication between the two countries around university sports could foster growth, and to identify opportunities and challenges faced by university sports development in China.” 

Alisports is making an investment in both sport and in China’s future,” said Wei. “The orientation of their investment is good. They have already come a long way in just three years and this is really positive for China. – AFP-SERVICES

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