Just a week ahead of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, Chinese e-commerce giant as well as the Games' leading sponsor, Alibaba Group is debuting a global marketing campaign outside China for the first time, with the release of Olympics ads focusing on underdog stories to recognise "the power of small" in the US, Britain, South Korea and Japan.
The international advertising push, which includes three branding videos that illustrate how one small action can touch millions of people, how small moments of character can inspire the world, and how the underdog can achieve great things.
Centered on the motto “to the greatness of small”, delivered by BBDO and Proximity China, the brand will run a billboard campaign in South Korea, the host country for the 9 to 25 February Pyeongchang Winter Games, as well as social media ads in the United States, Britain and Japan. TV commercials and billboards will also appear in China.
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An inspiring video features an ice hockey team from Kenya with grand aspirations to one day qualify for the Olympic Winter Games. The ad opens with a young Kenyan boy who has never played hockey – or even seen ice, for that matter – telling a skeptical elder he’s going to be an ice hockey player.
“Forget it, we don’t play ice hockey in Africa”, he is told. We see him taking to roller blades, then, joined by others, learning stick- and puck-handling on a dusty street-hockey court. Their journey takes them onto the ice, as a team, but it’s a local rink, and it leaves the date of their Olympic debut as TBD – still just a dream. Text on the screen reads: “We believe great dreams start small. To the Greatness of Small. Kenya’s first amateur ice hockey teams looks forward to their first Olympic Games.”
Watch: Kenya’s hockey team dreams big
Another spot features a pint-sized hockey player flattening a much-larger one and a tiny woman boxer whose fearsome punching prowess would even give Rhona Rousey a run for her money.
“A small character has unrivaled power,” the narrator intones. “A small corner can impact the whole world. A small country’s story can inspire all humanity. From big to small, everyone is making a difference. Alibaba Group, together with the Olympic Games, gives everyone an equal chance. To the greatness of small.”
Watch: Alibaba’s ad on “to the greatness of small”
The final commercial features the story of Australian sculler Henry Pearce. During the quarterfinals of the Olympic Games Amsterdam 1928, he displayed a small act of kindness, pausing mid-race to let a mother duck and her ducklings pass without losing a feather. Oars back in the water, Pearce caught and passed his French opponent. Pearce not only won hearts of the crowd for his act of courage, but went on to win a gold medal and to set a new world record in the 2,000-meter event that would stand for 45 years. Onscreen: “We believe small acts lead to greatness. To the greatness of small.”
Watch: An Olympic rower’s small decision makes a big difference
Interestingly, Alibaba Group's president Michael Evans was a former Olympic rowing gold medalist at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
The international ads will appear on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Linkedin.
According to Chris Tung, CMO of Alibaba, 'To the greatness of small' harks back to Alibaba’s founding in 1999. The first company Jack Ma and his fellow founders built was Alibaba.com to help small businesses in China export their products to the world.
"Our core concept is “to the greatness of small.” It supports and tells the story of what Alibaba has stood for from day one, which is to support the small guy, leverage our technology to help the underdog succeed in the global marketplace. We believe that technology can level the playing field, and that even small companies should be able to be global companies."
In January 2017, Alibaba Group and the International Olympic Committee jointly announced a long-term, strategic partnership. Alibaba was the first partner to make a long-term commitment to the IOC through 2028.
As part of the partnership, Alibaba will provide cloud-computing infrastructure and services to help transform the Games for the digital era. On the e-commerce front, Alibaba will create a global platform for Olympic stakeholders to engage and connect with fans seeking official Olympic-licensed products.