Alibaba turns heads as it joins Games sponsorship waltz

IOC President Thomas Bach (C) takes over the Olympic flag from Mayor of Pyeongchang Sim Jae-guk before handing it to Mayor of Beijing Chen Jining (R) during the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Games e-commerce sponsor Alibaba is trading cvarefully to avoid stumbling on to the turf of other sponsors. (Reuters)
Updated 26 February 2018
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Alibaba turns heads as it joins Games sponsorship waltz

PYEONGCHANG:The Olympic movement’s new Chinese global sponsor, e-commerce group Alibaba , came to the Pyeongchang Winter Games promising to revolutionize the experience for spectators, from buying tickets to souvenirs.
But other sponsors quickly reminded Alibaba that its revolution can’t happen if it steps on their turf.
Many of the services Alibaba wants to change, such as buying tickets online or shopping at the Games for Olympic-branded clothes and souvenirs, could involve trespassing on the territory of other IOC partners, experts and sponsors said.
Alibaba is the Olympic “E-Commerce Platform Services” provider under a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars unveiled in 2016. But Visa Inc. is the Olympic payment technology partner and also has an e-commerce role at the Games.
“In our mind it’s very clear, consumer e-commerce is our category. Business to business is theirs,” said Visa’s Korea manager, Iain Jamieson, who attended the Pyeongchang Games.
“They’ll find their feet. It’s their first Games. They have the next Winter Olympics (in Beijing). I can understand that they want to make a strong statement up front,” he added.
When Beijing hosts the Winter Games in 2022, Alibaba will still have to pick its way around the dozen other top global sponsors of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), a dance whose rules are set out by the IOC’s sponsorship regulations.
Since the IOC created its top sponsor program in the 1980s, it has sliced and diced its sponsorship categories and granted strict marketing rights to different companies, ensuring sponsors do not compete with each other.
For example, Samsung Electronics, as the wireless communication equipment sponsor, can have nothing to do with cameras at the Games because rival Panasonic Corp. is the global Olympic camera sponsor.
In a sign of its intentions, Alibaba set up a marketing showroom at the Games to demonstrate potential future uses of its technology, such as using facial recognition to help personalize the shopping experience.
Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said in an interview in Pyeongchang that the company was also looking to improve how merchandise is sold during the Games.
“Why do people have to stand in line for such a long time?” said. He described a scenario where people can see items on their phone, order them and collect them at the Olympic park.
Zhang said Alibaba was looking at which specific areas to focus on with its IOC deal and was also working closely with the Beijing Games organizers.
“We are talking with the IOC and Beijing and other partners to brainstorm. Pretty soon we’ll try to narrow down to very concrete ideas,” he added.
Alibaba said it had no problem working with other sponsors, saying the Games enabled it to deepen its relationships with other large companies.
Alibaba has said it is in talks with other top sponsors Procter & Gamble Co, Coca-Cola Co, Samsung and Intel Corp. to find opportunities to work together in the short and long term.
An executive familiar with Coca-Cola’s thinking said it saw no conflict with Alibaba’s current e-commerce deal and that it would still leave room for Coke to do a marketing deal around the Olympics with another e-commerce firm.
Alibaba also needs to be mindful of French technology consulting company Atos SE.
Alibaba is also the cloud services provider of the Olympics while Atos is the IT partner. The French firm’s Olympic website also makes reference to the cloud.
Alibaba said in a statement before the Games that Atos was “obliged to remove this communication on their website.”
Atos said in a statement that it “is allowed to refer to cloud as it relates to the provision of services that Atos provides for the Olympic Games.”
Shaun Whatling, chief executive of sponsorship consultancy Redmandarin, which has worked with IOC sponsors, said Atos as an existing sponsor should have managed its sponsorship category more actively to avoid Alibaba taking over all cloud services. Atos added that top sponsors are supposed to work with one another and that it had started talks with Alibaba “to evaluate future collaborations.”
IOC executive Christian Voigt, who oversees the top sponsorship program, told Reuters that Atos was not a cloud services partner and it instead looked after integration of IT systems around the Olympic sites.
“Of course, the use of the cloud is possible for others, it’s just that the marketing around it and focus for the Olympic movement is just Alibaba,” Voigt said.
“Our categories are pretty clearly crafted. We have no overlap and we are quite careful in the selection process.”
Alibaba can work well with the other sponsors and still look to steal the spotlight away from them.
“Alibaba’s made a strong start as an IOC partner. It’s understood the need to use (the Olympics) as a platform for a big vision, which many other partners fail to do,” said Whatling of Redmandarin.


India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

Updated 19 April 2019
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India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

  • Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries
  • India said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency”

NEW DELHI: India has suspended trade across its disputed Kashmir border with Pakistan, alleging that weapons and drugs are being smuggled across the route, as tensions simmer between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries and brought the two countries to the brink of war with cross-border air strikes.
On Thursday, India’s government, which is in the middle of a tough national election, said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency.”
It also said many of those trading across the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir into zones under Indian and Pakistani control, had links to militant organizations.
The home ministry said trade would be suspended until a stricter inspection mechanism is in place.
The cross-border trade is based on a barter system, with traders exchanging goods including chillies, cumin, mango and dried fruit.
It began in 2008 as a way to improve strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, who have fought two of their three wars over the disputed region.
The Indian Express newspaper said Friday that 35 trucks carrying fruit traveling from the Indian side of the border had been stopped after the government order.
Trade on the border has been suspended before, including in 2015, when India accused a Pakistani driver of drug trafficking.
The latest move comes after India withdrew “Most Favoured Nation Status” — covering trade links — from Pakistan after the February attack, which was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed Islamist group.
Islamabad has denied any involvement in the attack.
India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made national security a key plank of his re-election campaign, pointing to the recent flare-up of violence as he battles the center-left opposition Congress party.
He is seeking a second term from the country’s 900 million voters in the mammoth election which kicked off on April 11 and runs till May 19. The results will be out on May 23.