- Chipotle is running a series of TV ads during the NBA Finals that include special codes that reward attentive basketball fans with free burritos, according to a news release.
- During the broadcast of Game 1 of the series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns Tuesday, the brand aired a spot that featured a special keyword hidden on the end card. Viewers who texted the keyword to 888-222 entered for a chance to win one of 10,000 free burritos.
- Chipotle will continue airing ads around the finals, upping the stakes as the series progresses. The campaign draws a clear linkage between TV advertising and SMS marketing, the latter of which could be of greater importance to Chipotle as mobile ordering becomes a larger part of its business.
Chipotle is looking to provide basketball fans with a "game within the game" during the commercial breaks of a high-stakes NBA Finals series, CMO Chris Brandt said in the press release. While the Mexican fast-casual chain doesn't hold an official sponsorship with the league, the ads are airing during the games themselves, putting the promotion in front of potentially millions of rapt basketball fans.
The giveaway, whose first leg came as a surprise to viewers Tuesday, will grow in scale as the match-up between the Bucks and Suns progresses. A second ad appearing during Game 2 on July 8 will give away another 10,000 burritos, while a Game 3 ad on July 11 will dole out 20,000 and Game 4's spot will offer 30,000. Chipotle claims it could end up dishing out more than $1 million in free entrées over the course of the campaign, depending on how the series shapes up.
The effort offers another example of Chipotle building a bridge between its traditional advertising and mobile marketing. End cards on the commercials direct viewers to "order in the app," speaking to how Chipotle is angling to drive new sign-ups.
The brand ran a similar play in 2019 with a "Freeting" promotion that saw the official Chipotle Twitter page tweet a unique code unlocking a free burrito every time an announcer said "free" on-air during the close of that year's NBA season. Other recent marketing activations have centered on Chipotle's loyalty program, such as the addition last month of a Rewards Exchange feature that gives members more options on where they can spend their points.
Mobile has become a more significant portion of Chipotle's business due to consumer trends accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. Digital sales now account for about half of the company's total mix. Chipotle is quickly expanding on store concepts that better accommodate the channel, including its mobile-order-ahead Chipotlanes.
Chipotle at the same time has been staking out a larger claim in the sports marketing space. Earlier this month, the brand introduced its first national TV ad starring a professional athlete. The campaign spotlighting soccer star Julie Ertz supports the restaurant's largest celebrity-inspired menu to date and arrived ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo.