Alibaba’s sports wing to invest $1.52bn to make stadiums smart

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AliSports Smart Stadiums

AliSports, the sports wing of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, announced on June 1 that it will invest 10 billion yuan ($1.52 billion) with its associates, Bird’s Nest and Water Cube, to turn the country’s traditional sports venues into Internet-enabled smart stadiums.

As per its plans, AliSports will offer tailor-made solutions to aid Chinese cities in upgrading their stadiums so that the venues can optimize their usage and operate in a more effective way.

The Shanghai-based company also plans to set up a foundation dedicated to improving sports infrastructure throughout the country. “China has about 1.7 million stadiums. The goal for us is to become a sports services provider that can deliver turnkey solutions for each city,” AliSports CEO Zhang Dazhong told the media.

Many Chinese stadiums face challenges in terms of commercialization. Apart from the subsidies offered by local governments, many turn to sponsorship from companies to maintain their operations. With the help of cloud computing and big data technology, AliSports plans to better connect stadiums with their local sports fans via tailor-made solutions.

“The aim for the Alibaba Group is to improve the e-business system, payment-system, big data platform Aliyun, intelligent hardware and marketing system. At the same time, the partnership will allow the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube to realize their commercial value.” Zhang added.

In the near future, when people enter a local stadium, it is likely their smartphones will automatically notify them of the sports events they are interested in and promote sports gear they like via analyzing their shopping records on Alibaba’s platforms.

By leveraging the huge data pool of Alibaba, AliSports can, for example, know which sport is the most popular in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.

“Chinese spent a total of 90 billion yuan ($13.71 billion) in 2015 on sports-related items on Taobao and Tmall (two platforms of Alibaba), surging from less than 200 million yuan in 2012,” Zhang said, adding the data are a very valuable asset AliSports can tap into.

The company will first choose 20 cities to run some pilot projects and later upgrade tens of thousands of stadiums across 100 cites through investment.

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