- Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce, internet and technology giant, announced the launch of its first Olympic-themed advertising campaign on Feb. 1 ahead of the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, per news made available to Marketing Dive. Called "To the Greatness of Small," the effort spotlights small feats that led to greatness and was created by BBDO China and Omnicom Group.
- The campaign has three spots: one introducing Alibaba to the world and serving as its manifesto on how small businesses and entrepreneurs can make a difference; one telling the story of a Kenyan hockey team eager to attend the Olympics despite never having seen ice; and one about Henry "Bobby" Pearce, an Australian rower who, during the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games, stopped his lead in a race short to avoid crashing into a family of ducks (he would go on to win gold).
- Alibaba will promote the creative on digital and social channels in the U.S., U.K. and Japan and on TV and digital platforms in China. The company is additionally building an interactive out-of-home experience with Chiel Group that will be located in Gangneung Olympic Park and run from Feb. 11-25.
Despite becoming one the world's more formidable e-commerce and technology companies, Alibaba isn't a household brand name stateside or in the U.K. — something it's looking to correct with the new global ad push. The creative of To the Greatness of Small echoes that of companies like Procter & Gamble in showcasing real-life and inspirational stories often centered on athletes overcoming adversity, which might create resonance with Western consumers.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Alibaba Group CMO Chris Tung said the campaign has three primary goals: building awareness and an understanding of the company brand globally, sharing its vision for transforming the games digitally and building on and learning from its relationships. The on-site and out-of-home experience will additionally showcase Alibaba's facial recognition technology, travel guidance, content creation tools and more for attendees and the media.
In January last year, Alibaba signed a 12-year deal with the International Olympic Committee where it will deploy its cloud-based solutions to help modernize the Olympics and serve as the IOC's official e-commerce hub for merchandise and more. The company is becoming a top Olympic sponsor at a time when some major Western advertisers have pulled out of what's often a costly partnership. McDonald's last year prematurely ended a deal with the IOC originally intended to last through the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics as the fast-food chain realigned priorities to focus on cost-cutting. For the IOC, Alibaba might be a crucial partner in helping to connect with younger audiences that want to follow the games outside of traditional TV broadcast cycles.
"[The] best way to engage younger generations is to create a digital ecosystem with relevant information around their passion for sports and athletes," Tung said. He added that a bigger presence online helps preserve relevance rather than keep fans waiting every two to four years for the next event.