Alibaba Group has been pushing to boost commercial connections between China and the U.S. through its online marketplaces and investments, but Executive Chairman Jack Ma’s longstanding desire to act as matchmaker between East and West extends beyond e-commerce. The latest example: a partnership with U.S. college basketball that will produce the first meaningful hoops game ever played on Chinese soil.
The Pac-12 Conference and the world’s largest online and mobile commerce company today announced they are working together to bring a match-up featuring the Washington Huskies and Texas Longhorns to Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena on Nov. 14. In a press release, organizers called the game “a major first for sports in China,” because the Pac-12 will become the first U.S. sports league, collegiate or professional, to host a regular-season contest on the mainland. The partnership will continue into the 2016-2017 academic year and will produce a second regular-season Pac-12 China game to be announced later.
The tie-up extends off the court to the classroom. During their China trip, visiting players will travel to Alibaba headquarters in Hangzhou for a daylong educational program on strategic societal, cultural and business trends taking place across China, including e-commerce trends.
The visit to Alibaba Group’s campus will coincide with the company’s 11.11 Shopping Festival, which is the biggest online shopping day in the world. Following the trip Alibaba Group will provide a China education module to all Pac-12 institutions.
“This game and Alibaba Group’s involvement is consistent with our commitment to bringing the best of the world to China, and showcasing the best of China to the world,” said Alibaba Group Senior Vice President Jim Wilkinson. “As these student-athletes complete their education and enter the global economy, China/U.S. relations will be central to the future of the world in which they live. We truly believe that this trip will provide these student athletes with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn about China, to make new friends, and to hopefully impact their futures in a positive way.”
The game in Shanghai is part of a Pac-12 globalization initiative that began in 2011. Since then, the conference has sent two men’s and the Cal women’s basketball teams, two all-star women’s volleyball teams, and one all-star men’s basketball team to compete in China.
“This is a great opportunity for these students to participate in true cultural exchange through college sports,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. “Their experiences both on and off the court will not only be valuable to their future success, but also help foster goodwill and mutual understanding between our two countries.”
The Shanghai game is scheduled to be broadcast live in the U.S. on ESPN on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET. Webcasts will also be streamed live via Alibaba’s mobile and digital distribution platforms.
WATCH THIS VIDEO TO SEE PAC-12 COMMISSIONER LARRY SCOTT EXPLAIN THE PARTNERSHIP WITH ALIBABA.