Alibaba's global arm signs David Beckham as international e-commerce brand ambassador

BEIJING — Soccer star David Beckham will promote Alibaba‘s international e-commerce platform, AliExpress, in its biggest global brand ambassador partnership to date, the business unit announced Monday.

The deal comes against the backdrop of China-based rivals PDD Holdings‘ Temu and online fashion startup Shein’s rapid global expansion, with the former also advertising at the Super Bowl to gain traction with U.S. customers.

AliExpress, which did not disclose how much it was paying Beckham to be its global brand ambassador, has joined several Chinese companies in sponsoring the UEFA European soccer championship that kicks off in mid-June.

“AliExpress is investing millions of Euros in discounts, deals and engagement during the games,” the company said in a statement, adding that planned promotions include a chance for AliExpress app users to win tickets to games.

“AliExpress is helping fans get even closer to UEFA EURO 2024™ this summer, by offering them great prizes as the action takes place on the pitch,” Beckham said in his only statement in the press release.

Beckham’s company, DRJB Holdings, said in its latest available filing it made 72.6 million pounds ($92.5 million) in revenue in 2022.

Alibaba’s international e-commerce business, which includes AliExpress, is called Alibaba International Digital Commerce Group.

The international unit’s sales surged by 45% year on year in the first three months of 2024 to 27.45 billion yuan ($3.79 billion). That contrasts with 4% growth in revenue during that time from China-focused Taobao and Tmall Group to 93.22 billion yuan, according to Alibaba.

However, the international business unit reported an increase in losses to 4.1 billion yuan, compared with 2.2 billion yuan a year earlier.

The company “made aggressive investments” in the Middle East and other emerging markets in the first three months of the year, Jiang Fan, co-chairman and CEO of the international unit, said in an earnings call earlier this month.

AliExpress said in 2022 it had spent about $7 million in South Korea to attract local consumers with lower product prices. Last year, AliExpress signed actor Don Lee as its first brand ambassador in South Korea.

Other China-based companies have also increased their efforts to expand overseas amid slowing growth at home.

Chinese sponsors of UEFA Euro 2024 include Alibaba-affiliate Alipay, electric car company BYD, home appliance brand Hisense and smartphone company Vivo.

Hisense became the first Chinese sponsor for the European championship in 2016. Three other Chinese businesses subsequently signed partnerships for the games in 2020.

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