FIFA and Alibaba retake their vows in not-so-new deal for Club World Club

By Paul Nicholson

November 24 – FIFA and Alibaba seem to have re-announced a sponsorship for the Club World Cup that was first unveiled in 2015.

The 2015 deal was for eight years – called a “presenting partnership” – was with Alibaba E-auto, part of Chinese internet entrepreneur Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group.  It included the right for the Chinese brand present the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award at matches.

Fast forward two years and the two partners are announcing a six-year deal for the Club World Cup but this time with Alibaba Cloud at the Computing Conference held by Alibaba Group in Guangzhou.  As part of the partnership, Alibaba Cloud will design and provide the MVP award.

The Club World Cup will be played December 6-16 in the UAE and will see Real Madrid seek to retain their title against Al-Jazeera (UAE), Auckland (New Zealand), Pachuca (Mexico), Wydad Athletic Club (Morocco) and the winners of the AFC Champions League (Al Hilal from Saudi Arabia or Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds), and the winners of the Copa Libertadores (either Gremio from Brazil or Argentina’s Lanus).

The Alibaba sponsorship, whether it is the same deal reinvented or not, is crucial to a competition that has struggled to find a place in the world football calendar and struggled for sponsorship, suffering a substantial fall in the revenue it received.

Notes contained in the governing body’s recently-published financial and governance report for 2015 state that revenue received from the competition in the previous year reached only $20.45 million, a near halving from the $40 million recorded in both 2013 and 2014. Hence the arrival of Alibaba and its magical money could not have been better time.

To their credit, FIFA’s press team have not made a big deal of the Alibaba Cloud announcement via their press channels, though the marketing team were present in Guangzhou to support Alibaba.

FIFA’s director marketing sales and strategy, Iain Downie said: “We are aware of the substantial value that Alibaba Cloud provides to business in terms of technical support and global reaching services. We can only see great potential in this fresh collaboration related to the FIFA Club World Cup.”

Simon Hu, senior vice president of Alibaba Group and president of Alibaba Cloud, said: “As one of the world’s leading cloud computing providers, we are striving to make technology more inclusive to benefit more people’s day to day life and well-being.

“By becoming a major partner of the FIFA Club World Cup, we hope to show how our technology can bring new aspects of fun and enjoyment to fans of sports, including those people who might have had barriers to access or participate before. For Alibaba Cloud, this is the true meaning of inclusive technology.”

The future of the World Club Cup looked to be hanging by a thread with talk of expanding the number of teams and even killing off the competition all together. For some insightful background and perhaps a look into the tea leaves of what could happen, read David Owen’s column which, a bit like the Alibaba deal, was first published in December 2016.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1548241239labto1548241239ofdlr1548241239owedi1548241239sni@n1548241239osloh1548241239cin.l1548241239uap1548241239