The Alisports arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group has made its latest major investment in the sports market by partnering with the International e-Sports Federation (IeSF).
The IeSF said the ‘exclusive strategic partnership’ would result in the two parties exploring the prospect of a new tournament that would feature both amateur and professional esports players. Alisports has pledged to invest $149m (€135m) into the esports sector through the venture.
Alisports will aid the IeSF in its quest to get esports recognised as an official sport. The IeSF earlier this year contacted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over the possibility of esports being contested at an Olympic Games in the future. The governing body is also seeking membership of SportAccord, the umbrella group of more than 90 Olympic and non-Olympic sports federations. Alisports and the IeSF will also work to create unique intellectual property.
Alisports’ chief executive Zhang Dazhong said: “As the most authoritative international organisation in (the) esports industry, IeSF has been committed to promoting (the) esports movement into the mainstream, including pushing it into the Olympic Games, which is consistent with our ideal. We are honoured to cooperate with IeSF as the exclusive global partners in the long-term. I believe the two sides will jointly promote the development of the global esports industry.”
The IeSF said that Alisports has plans to build esports-specific stadiums in China to capitalise on its growing appeal in the country. IeSF president Byung Hun Jun added: “This partnership is one big step to IeSF. I believe IeSF and Alisports will maximise each other’s strength by this partnership. I also believe (an) esports stadium can be transformed to be a (fashionable) place for youth. IeSF will make our all effort to be with more esports fans in more countries together with Alisports from now on.”
The IeSF, which is based in South Korea, was formed in 2009 and currently has 47 member associations.
The deal marks the latest in a string of sports-focused partnerships agreed by Alibaba through Alisports. The International Boxing Association (Aiba) this week reached an agreement in principle to enter into a joint venture with Alisports in an effort to boost the commercial presence of the sport around the world.
In April, Alisports also launched its World Electronic Sport Games (WESG) esports series through a partnership with Singapore-based social networking company YuuZoo.