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Manchester United eyes Chinese growth with wide-ranging Alibaba deal

English Premier League football club Manchester United has today (Friday) struck an agreement with Alibaba Group, through which a range of content will be distributed across the Chinese e-commerce company’s platforms.

The deal grants Alibaba exclusive rights in China to selected first-team matches, highlights and localised original productions. A first-of-its-kind, dedicated United channel will also launch on Youku, Alibaba’s video-streaming platform.

The channel will be linked prominently from the Youku Sport portal and will feature academy, women’s and first-team tour games, plus first-team matches on-demand, as well as China-specific content. United has already broadcast three matches from its pre-season tour on the Youku homepage.

Additionally, United will work with Alibaba to establish a club store on Tmall, Alibaba’s B2C marketplace. The store will become the official online marketplace store selling United merchandise to Chinese consumers and will be promoted on the Youku channel.

United and Alibaba will also provide business partners with marketing solutions to promote their products and brands across Alibaba’s platforms.

Richard Arnold, Manchester United group managing director, said: “We are proud of our passionate and loyal following around the world and our Chinese fans are a huge part of that. We are always looking for new ways to engage with fans there and this partnership with Alibaba enables them to connect with the club directly through one of China’s most popular video streaming platforms.”

Alibaba Group president Michael Evans added: “We share the same goal, which is to provide fans with one-of-a-kind online content consumption and shopping that leverages the latest technology. With this cooperation we are leveraging Alibaba’s ecosystem to bring a unique Manchester United experience closer to fans and consumers in China.”