This year in June, Rakuten announced a bold new partnership with the World Cup of Tennis, stepping into the role of Global Innovation and Entertainment Partner and Global Presenting Partner for the Davis Cup. In preparation for the finals coming up later this month, the organizers of the tournament asked Rakuten Chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani a few questions about Rakuten’s passion for sports, his love of tennis, and the reasons why he is delighted that Rakuten is partnering with the Davis Cup.
Why is Rakuten so passionate about sports?
At Rakuten, we believe that sports have the power to bring people together and unite the world by transcending language, cultural and regional barriers. We also believe that sports and business share important values — teamwork, leadership, hard work, ambition, humility and respect. What we learn from sports is that through innovation and teamwork, our partnerships in these fields allow us to have a meaningful, positive impact — empowering, inspiring and fulfilling the dreams of so many around the globe.
What’s special about tennis?
My passion for tennis has played a special part in my life since my father took me to the local tennis club in junior high school, and, in my younger days, my dream was to be a professional tennis player. I still love to play with my family when we get the chance.
When I attended Hitotsubashi University, I captained the tennis team. My passion for competitive tennis had a big impact on my approach to business. On my university team, I began to see the value of testing rules and reinventing new ways to be successful. Many of the lessons I learned from tennis have helped me grow Rakuten from being an online marketplace with just 13 shops and two employees into a global company with more than 18,000 employees and annual transactions of more than 130 billion euros.
And what’s special about the Davis Cup?
The Davis Cup invokes passion and unity among communities in a way that is truly special. The tournament exemplifies both the history and future of the game. It is 119 years old. It exudes tradition and heritage. But it is not stuck in the past. It is innovating and disrupting. From this year, the competition will be rejuvenated with the new World Cup-style format, bringing 18 countries and the world’s best players to compete in a week-long season finale. I’m excited to be a part of this new adventure.
What does Rakuten plan to add to the Cup?
With our expertise in e-commerce and membership loyalty programs, Rakuten will aim to bring global innovation to the Davis Cup through digital and offline activations. The latest news and exclusive content will be made available exclusively on Rakuten Viber, our global messaging platform. We will create a new Davis Cup app and an online experience to enhance the fan experience — for those at the La Caja Magica and those watching overseas — giving fans the opportunity to get closer to their favorite teams.
Most importantly, I want to make the Davis Cup, the World Cup of Tennis, more accessible to fans around the globe. In Japanese, Rakuten means “Optimism.” It means we believe in the future. The Davis Cup has always been a tournament where the impossible can be achieved, where underdogs can become champions. I’m delighted that Rakuten is a part of bringing this feeling of optimism to tennis fans around the world.