Franchise/Restaurant Advertising


Chipotle Turns Video Gaming Tournament Into Virtual Event

April 8, 2020 Carolyn Harding

The question on many marketer’s minds today is: how do we connect with new and loyal consumers when our entire audience is stuck at home? The current pandemic has stretched across nearly every industry and major event — from the postponement of the Summer Olympics to the closing of dine-in restaurants. This “new normal” has left brands scrambling to save marketing campaigns built around in-person experiences by pivoting to virtual and digital efforts.

The latest in-person turned virtual experience comes from Chipotle, which recently transformed its popular real-world gaming tournament “Challenger Series” into a full-fledged virtual event.

Chipotle’s Challenger Series Connects Fans Coast To Coast  

Chipotle Challenger Series tournament

The Chipotle Challenger Series tournament kicked off this week, giving fans across the U.S. the chance to join the video gaming competition and prove their skills by playing some of the world's most popular games. Participants will go up against well-known esports gamers in addition to gamers across the music, entertainment and sports industries. Winners will receive $25,000, a year of free Chipotle and an additional $25,000 to donate to COVID-19 relief efforts.

“Bringing the Chipotle Challenger Series online provides the perfect platform to directly engage new and loyal esports fans,” said Chris Brandt, Chipotle Chief Marketing Officer.

Chipotle’s Recent Virtual Initiatives Reflect The Company’s Larger Goal

While some brands have struggled to communicate the right messages during today’s pandemic, and others have stopped all marketing efforts entirely, Chipotle has pivoted quickly to focus its energy on engaging consumers entirely online. In fact, the new virtual Challenger Series tournament comes on the heels of Chipotle’s creation of “Chipotle Together,” which offers 3,000 fans each day the chance to join a virtual hangout on Zoom with well-known celebrities.

“Through the Challenger Series and Chipotle Together, a string of virtual hangouts that feature celebrity appearances, exclusive content and free giveaways, Chipotle is looking to bring more joy to its fans and bridge important digital connections during this time of uncertainty,” the company stated in the press release.

According to MarketingDive, Brandt has been looking to transform the brand’s image and reach Gen Z and younger Millennials where they're most likely to spend time, making today’s global shift toward virtual life a natural move for the popular food chain.

“We realized this is where our fans were headed,” said Tressie Lieberman, Chipotle’s VP of Digital and Off-Premise. “We started by bringing people together over lunch, when they may normally be hanging out at a Chipotle restaurant under different circumstances. We then started activating at all times of the day, pending the idea and talent.”

Since its first remote gathering, Chipotle Together has generated 500 million impressions and 100 earned media stories. “In the short term, we are a source of entertainment and positivity for people at home. We also have the opportunity to tap into our celebrities’ fan bases to acquire new fans and increase awareness of our delivery capabilities. In the long term, we are building brand affinity and trust,” Lieberman added.

Brands Should Consider The Benefits Of Strong Messaging & Digital Marketing

Shifts in marketing strategies reflect the importance of messaging over targeting during a time like this. With consumers glued to mobile devices and TV’s now more than ever, the question of where a brand’s consumer can be found has become clear. As a result, targeting is much less complicated. Today, in the virtual world we are living in, strong messaging has the power to make a brand stand out from the pack.  

In the coming months, as face-to-face business and live events are put on hold, brands that win will be those that can quickly transition to and rely on a strong digital marketing strategy and create long-term value for when the dust settles.  

Looking For Innovative Ways To Reach Your Audience?

Digital Media Solutions® (DMS) helps brands grow by capitalizing on consumer intent and engagement, deploying sophisticated martech with big data intelligence to connect brands with consumers at the moments they’re most ready to take action, using messages proven to resonate.

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About the Author

Carolyn Harding

Carolyn Harding is an Associate Manager of Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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