Akshit Pushkarna

Can SOCIAL’s IPL play help it become the hottest urban hangout?

SOCIAL chain has partnered with Delhi Capitals and Punjab Kings teams, along with three batsmen in IPL 2023.

Casual dining restaurant chain SOCIAL has emerged as a popular hangout joint for youngsters in the metro cities of India. The chain is a part of Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality has eight different brands.

The company labels SOCIAL as an intersection of a café, workplace, casual dining. The brand recently inaugurated its 42nd outlet in the country. The new SOCIAL Civil Lines became open to the public on April 27, 2023. Interestingly, posters saying 'SOCIAL - DC (Delhi Capitals) adda' along with the team's tiger mascot are present all over the premises.

Can SOCIAL’s IPL play help it become the hottest urban hangout?

Social opened its first outlet in Bengaluru’s Church Street in 2014. Riyaaz Amlani, CEO & MD at Impresario, has said in an interview with The News Minute, that social was simply meant to be a café and co-working space. It soon became more popular hangout place.

Social’s is keen to align the chain with sports, and the IPL presents a perfect opportunity for them to do so. Alexander Valladares, CMO, Impresario Handmade Restaurants, explains why the brand is very confident in developing a sports identity for SOCIAL.

“Our customers are generally people who come in groups and celebrate a particular occasion. You’re going out with friends for an after-work party or a weekend getaway, or it’s about cheering for your favorite team. One big reason for people to come together, besides going out to a party, is sports.”

The brand has partnered with Punjab Kings and Delhi Capitals. It uses team decorations in their Delhi and Chandigarh outlets throughout the season. The brand's decision to partner with these teams may strike someone as it only has 11 outlets in Delhi and 2 in Chandigarh. The total number of outlets in Mumbai collectively outnumber the cities’ outlets by 2.

"We feel like the fans of these two teams were looking for a place to come cheer for their team. We've collaborated in the past with the Mumbai Indians. This season, we still promote the team in our outlets in Mumbai since we have backed Ishan Kishan," Valladares comments.

Valladares says that the chain is trying to give a stadium-like experience to their customers. “We’ve got the big projectors and also a stadium menu. The menu, called ‘Stadyum menu’, includes food and drinks inspired by IPL teams we’ve collaborated with.”

The brand first experimented with an IPL collaboration last year. It partnered with emerging talents like Kishan of Mumbai Indians and Ruturaj Gaikwad of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the 2022 season. This year, they also added Mumbai Indian's batsman Tilak Varma to their roster.

SOCIAL’s logo is present at the back of the bats of the three cricketers, who’re also opening batsmen of their respective teams. This ensures visibility for the brand through this partnership.

"SOCIAL is not only offering a fantastic match-viewing experience but also an immersive experience. To further enhance engagement, we also have an online platform where patrons can win exciting vouchers and merchandise. We are thrilled to be the go-to destination for sports enthusiasts who share our passion for building a vibrant and inclusive community," Valladares adds.

The brand has also made three films with them that showcase the chain as IPL’s ‘doosra stadium’. Conceptualised by the brand’s in-house creative team, along with the production company Junglee Pictures, the ads run on JioCinema, when DC and PBKS teams are playing. 

As per Valladares, the brand is advertising in mainstream media for the first time. “For this season, the marketing pitch we’ve gone with is ‘Social is cricket ka doosra stadium’. The ad films emphasise this point. We show the cricketers enjoying the match, in a stadium-like setting, i.e., a Social restaurant.”

Valladeres says that the brand decided to go all in with this year's IPL integration. However, it is not the first time that SOCIAL has associated with a sporting event. 

Not the first major sports association for Social

Valladeres explains that Social has also screened F1, English Premier League, Pro Kabaddi League, and Premier Volleyball League in the past. The marketing team at Social tries to build a peripheral experience around every sports integration they do, Valladares asserts

“For F1, we tied up with Red Bull. It set up a virtual F1 gaming console in our outlets that were active throughout the season. For EPL, we try to tie up with various fan clubs in a city, so that they bring in like-minded people to Social outlets. When the EPL trophy was brought to Mumbai, it was kept at one of our outlets in the city.” 

Valladares says that when other sporting events come along, SOCIAL will adopt them as well. The aim is to make the whole vibe of the restaurant chain more sporty. The brand is also in talks with several esports tournaments and will be partnering with some in the near future.

Social is also trying to go hyper-local with their sporting partnerships. Valladares shares that the brand has collaborated with the Roots Football League. This league is for 32 football teams hailing from Mumbai and SOCIAL is the title sponsor for this league.

"Sports as a community is core for us and we are slowly entrenching ourselves deep into it. The Roots collaboration allows us to build a connection with residents of Mumbai who follow the sport to a great extent."

Valladares also states that the IPL collaboration this year happened at the last minute. He believes that this IPL season has been a great one because there’s been a lot of last over finishes and at the edge of one’s seat.” The brand is going to explore the collaboration further in the season and upcoming seasons as well.

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