Italian football powerhouse AC Milan opened a flagship store on Alibaba Group’s B2C e-commerce platform Tmall earlier this week to engage with its large and growing base in China.
The seven-time Champions League winner is the best-regarded Italian club in China, where it boasts roughly 146 million followers – more than the populations of France and Italy combined.
These football enthusiasts are in for a treat, as the Tmall flagship store puts a range of new and vintage club merchandise within reach, including the team’s classic red and black jerseys, the origin of the players’ nickname the red and blacks, or Rossoneri in Italian.
“[The launch] will bring the many Chinese Rossoneri fans even closer to their favorite team, through a unique shopping experience that takes advantage of the latest digital innovations,” said Rodrigo Cipriani Foresio, General Manager at Alibaba Group Southern Europe, in a statement.
International sports clubs are expanding into China in droves.
The Italian football club is no slouch itself and already has a strong presence on Chinese social media platforms, an office in Shanghai and hosts its international AC Milan Academy project in Shenzhen.
China’s massive sports market doubled in size between 2014 to 2019 to reach 1.1% of the country’s entire GDP and is expected to reach 4% by 2035, according to the General Administration of Sport of China.
These days, getting a signed ball or jersey is just an appetizer for dedicated AC Milan followers in China.
The club’s Tmall flagship store is rolling out exclusive personalized collections which enable fans to get their favorite players’ names and numbers printed on phone cases, jerseys and more.
“By launching this new online store, AC Milan is providing the many Rossoneri fans in China with an exceptional customer experience, one which is becoming increasingly diversified and aligned with their habits and needs,” said AC Milan Chief Revenue Officer Casper Stylsvig in a statement.
Customization is crucial for retailers in China. More than half of local Generation Z consumers prefer brands with personalized products or service providers with tailored offerings, a 2019 survey by consultancy McKinsey found.
Last month, luxury fashion brand Bulgari launched a digital store on Tmall with a tailor-made interface and personalized services, such as bespoke engraving.