Chipotle Mexican Grill and Ally Financial this summer became the first official marketing partners of /twitchgaming, a dedicated channel for game-related programming. The news points to how Twitch continues to expand as a marketing platform as demand grows for creator content. Previously, brands could sponsor competitive gaming, but this is the first time Twitch is offering deeper engagement opportunities on non-competitive programming.
The partnerships signify an ongoing commitment to promotional activities on Twitch rather than one-time campaigns for product launches or limited-time offers. As the official fast casual and quick-service restaurant for /twitchgaming, Chipotle seeks to reach a target audience of consumers who are most likely to order food for delivery.
"Attracting Generation Z and millennials in unexpected ways is really important for Chipotle; half of our business is from 'under-35' customers," Stephanie Perdue, Chipotle's vice president of brand marketing, said in an interview. "Several years ago, we saw a connection to the gaming space and made a lot of investments — and have continued to grow the investment in gaming."
Twitch's number of daily users nearly doubled to more than 30 million this year from about 17.5 million in 2020, according to data provided to Marketing Dive. The surge in activity came as the pandemic led millions of people to play video games or seek livestream programming while stuck at home.
Twitch's average number of concurrent viewers surged more than 50% to 2.45 million between March and April 2020 as lockdowns went into effect, per Twitch Tracker. After declining last summer, activity picked up in the fall and reached new highs earlier this year.
Twitch's parent company Amazon has expanded the platform's programming with the addition of live sports like "Thursday Night Football," but its core audience still mostly consists of gamers. In addition to providing live programming, Twitch acts like a social network for gamers who want to chat with others or share their viewing experiences with an online community.
Opportunities for brands
Twitch's official marketing partners program gives brands first-look opportunities to be the exclusive sponsors of original programming. It also offers "always on" branded in-stream integrations, custom segments, media and product placements, and exclusive intellectual property rights to content, among other perks.
Ally and Chipotle kicked off their respective partnerships as sponsors of original programming. To highlight its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, Ally is the presenting sponsor of "Game Changers," a limited-run series on /twitchgaming that features creators who are among underrepresented groups in the gaming industry.
Chipotle's "Build Your Own PC" game was inspired by the restaurant chain's in-store ordering line that lets customers personalize their burrito fillings. The game lets players create customized personal computers with different equipment before they're donated to a nonprofit. Chipotle also plans to launch a branded feature giving hosts and guests an opportunity to express their opinions on gaming-related topics.
Twitch provides a way for Chipotle to capture the undivided attention of viewers who are focused on gaming content and who are hard to reach through other media channels like traditional TV. The restaurant chain's digital marketing efforts have grown in importance as more customers order online and sign up for its app-based rewards program.
"What we've seen from a consumption standpoint is that when you get in the gaming space, you're really highly engaged."
Vice president of brand marketing, Chipotle
"What we've seen from a consumption standpoint is that when you get in the gaming space, you're really highly engaged," Perdue said. "You're reaching consumers in a very unduplicated way. For us, it's been a very fruitful space."
Chipotle not only is a sponsor of game-related content, but also has developed its own games to engage fans. Last month, the company launched a racing video game to showcase an update to its loyalty program called Rewards Exchange. The game aimed to showcase the variety of options for spending loyalty points.
Chipotle's efforts to engage the gaming community last year included a partnership with skateboarder Tony Hawk that marked the first time the chain named a menu item after a celebrity. As part of a co-promotion with video game giant Activision, he played a new version of "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2" with other skateboarders on Chipotle's Twitch channel, which gave away thousands of burritos to viewers.
The QSR's role as the official restaurant sponsor of /twitchgaming marks an extension of its efforts to engage with the gaming community. Last year, it started the Chipotle Challenger series to pit amateur gamers against professionals in games such as PUBG Mobile, Fortnite and Call of Duty.
"This has been really a great platform for us," Perdue said.