Interview: Alibaba CMO Looks Ahead to Tokyo 2020 and Beyond

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Interview: Alibaba CMO Looks Ahead to Tokyo 2020 and Beyond

Chris Tung, Chief Marketing Officer, Alibaba Group



At this summer’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the use of cutting-edge technology is set to scale the event’s reach and accessibility for global audiences in what will be the most innovative Games yet, per Alibaba.

Cloud-based technologies, for example, will allow rights-holding broadcasters to carry out a significant part of their jobs remotely. With fewer staff and equipment needed onsite, broadcasters could cut down costs and efficiently retrieve, create and distribute coverage in real-time. As a result, the International Broadcast Center in Tokyo is expected to be 30% smaller than it was at Rio 2016, with 27% fewer broadcasters present.

As the Olympic Games draw closer, Alibaba Group Chief Marketing Officer Chris Tung shares how the group will support the upcoming event, a new advertising campaign and its vision for future Games.

Q: Tell us about your new campaign released this week.

The theme, “Let Hope Shine, Brighter Together,” is an ode to humanity’s resilience and unity in overcoming Covid-19. It showed how people have hung on to hope and united to find ways to move through hardship. Around the world, people, especially athletes, have pushed their limits, embraced new technologies and charted new paths forward, all with the belief that there will be brighter days ahead. People who have hope can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This, for us, embodies the spirit of the Olympic Games. We wanted to honor this in the campaign.

Q: There seems to be a connection between the theme and that of your first campaign for PyeongChang 2018, “To the Greatness of Small.”

Both were inspired by the incredible resilience we’ve seen in the face of challenges. In “To the Greatness of Small,” we championed the underdog and the power of small actions, small moments of character to achieve great things.

The concept is really authentic to who we are as a company. We have a vision to make it possible for any small business to sell to consumers anywhere in the world, seamlessly. In that sense, we have a lot in common with the spirit of the Olympic Games: Every athlete has an equal chance to compete and win on this global stage.

In 2020, we saw the greatness of small on another level – from the unflagging commitment and persistence of athletes and the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Organizing Committees, to the strength of each individual. Everyone has, in their own way, searched for light amid the darkness.

Q: How will Alibaba support the staging of Tokyo 2020?

Alibaba’s partnership with the IOC goes beyond a traditional sponsorship. We have been working on a variety of cloud and e-commerce-based initiatives as part of our commitment to transform the Games for the digital era. In a little over four years, we’ve already made a strong start.

One of our major initiatives for Tokyo 2020 will be the expansion of the Olympic Broadcasting Services Cloud. By leveraging our Alibaba Cloud’s best-in-class technology, OBS Cloud will help transform the media experience by introducing a more powerful and efficient way for rights-holding broadcasters to create and distribute content around the Games – with fewer staff and equipment required onsite.

And, we have launched the first-ever Olympic online store on Tmall, Alibaba’s B2C e-commerce platform, for Chinese fans to join in the excitement for the Games. Last year, before the pandemic, we also worked with young Japanese artists to create digital installations at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, to engage younger audiences with creativity and technology.

We are also working with other members of The Olympic Partner program to be able to bring more transformation to the table. We’ve partnered with Intel, for example, to host the first-ever artificial intelligence-powered 3D Athlete Tracking Technology via Alibaba Cloud. It uses AI to analyze videos of athletes and generate 3D models of them, which can help to improve their training, as well as provide more interactive broadcasting features for audiences.

Q: Why is the IOC partnership important for Alibaba?

It’s an integral part of our globalization strategy. We see the partnership as a platform to showcase our innovations to the world, as we pursue our goal of serving two billion consumers globally by 2036. More than that, we want to leverage our technology and ecosystem to make a positive impact around the world. Our partnership with the IOC is a 12-year commitment to carry the Olympic Games into a digital era, creating a better experience for all Olympic stakeholders, from organizers, broadcasters, partners, to most importantly, fans and athletes. Alibaba and the IOC share a vision for what technology can do to create a level playing field and to enrich people’s lives. We couldn’t be more excited about the achievements we’ve accomplished together. But there is still much more to do. We plan to continue broadening the range of innovations for Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022 and beyond.

Q: Looking forward, what’s next in Alibaba’s partnership with the IOC?

Over the several months leading up to the Games, we will unveil more of our Tokyo 2020 initiatives. Beijing 2022 is also going to be very critical for us. A lot of our ideas and cloud-based innovations could be realized on the ground thereafter, to Paris 2024, Milan 2026 and all the way to Los Angeles in 2028. The goal is to make Beijing a truly cloud-powered Olympic Games. We aim to bring attendees and sports fans from across the globe a new and unique experience – as interactive, engaging and personalized as possible – from booking tickets to buying souvenirs and navigating the host city via cloud-based mobile technologies. We also see a huge opportunity to help the IOC and Organizing Committees streamline operations and manage the costs for staging events, as we continue to migrate even more core technology modules to the cloud.

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