Jack Ma doubles down on Alisports with RMB 1.2 billion funding

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Alisports (阿里体育 in Chinese), the sports arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has reportedly landed a series A worth more than RMB 1.2 billion, as part of its efforts to beef up its presence in the country’s burgeoning sports sector, local media is reporting (in Chinese).

The funding round, led by Yunfeng Fund (Jack Ma’s VC firm), puts Alisports’ valuation at RMB 7 billion. Other investors include Taiping Guofa (Suzhou) Capital Management and Shanghai Qianheng Venture Capital.

Alisports is part of Alibaba’s new cultural and entertainment group, established last year after the e-commerce giant consolidated some of its business units. The new media group has become a cash cow for Alibaba, after e-commerce and cloud computing.

Alisports is the exclusive title sponsor of the World Cup in China from 2015 to 2020 and is cooperating with other international sports organizations on ticket-booking, e-commerce, sports training, and event promotion.

In addition, it has also launched the World Electronic Sports Games and World Online Running Alliance to build its own sports brand. Alisports plans to pour roughly RMB 600 million into its electronic sports games in the next three to five years, revealed Wang Guan, general manager of the firm’s e-sports business division (in Chinese).

Earlier Alibaba founder Jack Ma hoped to build Alisports into a sports industry platform able to generate RMB 1 trillion in revenue, but this remains a fairly distant goal.

Although Alibaba saw the transaction value on its Tmall B2C marketplace total RMB 120.7 billion on Nov. 11 shopping bonanza last year, yet its Alisports Tmall shop’s transaction value was only RMB 2,212 that day (in Chinese). This funding signals Alisports’ determination to step up its pace of expansion in the sports sector.

Apart from Alibaba, China’s other conglomerates, including real estate giant Wanda Group, internet giant LeEco and electronic retailer Suning, also swarm into the sector in hopes of grabbing a slice of the booming sports market, which was estimated by the government to reach RMB 5 trillion by 2025 (in Chinese).