Man United strengthen Chinese engagement in Alibaba deal
One of the world’s most recognisable soccer clubs has teamed up with one of the top e-commerce platforms with today’s announcement of a new partnership between Manchester United and Alibaba Group.
Under the deal, the English giants will offer exclusive club content on the Chinese corporation’s outlets, which reach around 700 million consumers, increasing its engagement with the large fanbase in the Far East country.
The content will include selected first-team fixtures, highlights and localised original productions, and what is described as a “first-of-its-kind” dedicated Manchester United channel on Youku, Alibaba’s video streaming platform.
The Youku offering will include academy, women’s and first-team tour games, plus first-team games shown on-demand and worldwide, and China-specific content. United already showed three games from this year's pre-season tour on Youku.
The partnership also entails collaboration to launch a future Manchester United flagship store on Tmall, Alibaba’s business-to-consumer marketplace, which will become the official online store for the sale of club merchandise to Chinese consumers, with a link from the Youku channel.
The club and the platform have also pledged to work together to provide business partners with market solutions to promote their products across Alibaba outlets.
Michael Evans, the president of Alibaba Group, said: “Manchester United is one of the most popular and successful football teams in the world, with a sizable and passionate fan base in China. We share the same goal, which is to provide fans with one-of-a-kind online content consumption and shopping that leverages the latest technology. With this cooperation we are leveraging Alibaba’s ecosystem to bring a unique Manchester United experience closer to fans and consumers in China. I look forward to developing other areas of strategic business cooperation in the future.”
Richard Arnold, the group managing director of Manchester United, added: “We are proud of our passionate and loyal following around the world and our Chinese fans are a huge part of that. We are always looking for new ways to engage with fans there and this partnership with Alibaba enables them to connect with the club directly through one of China’s most popular video streaming platforms. We look forward to working with Alibaba to further grow our fan base in China and building on other areas of the partnership in the near future.”
Despite underwhelming performances on the field in recent seasons, the club has remained an attractive partner for overseas companies and brands, and is likely to be in the market for a new shirt sponsor following reports that US car maker Chevrolet is unlikely to extend its agreement, valued at £50 million ($66 million) per year, beyond 2021.
Haier, the Chinese home appliances manufacturer, recently denied reports it was close to signing a £70-million-a-year deal with United.