- Chipotle Mexican Grill is bringing Challenger Series, its real-world gaming tournament, online to create a virtual event, the company said in a press release.
- The second annual Chipotle Challenger Series (CCS) kicks off on Monday, April 6, when a registration portal opens, and will feature competitions across popular games. The finale will be broadcast on April 25 on Twitch and YouTube. Winners will receive $25,000, as well as an additional $25,000 to donate to COVID-19 relief efforts, and a year of free Chipotle.
- Teams will go up against well-known esports gamers as well as gamers across sports, music and entertainment, including professional basket player Marcus Smart, DJ Steve Aoki and actor Finn Wolfhard. The list of esports players includes Matt "Nadeshot" Haag from 100 Thieves, Brooke "BrookeAB" Bond, Myth from TSM and Jack "CouRage" Dunlop and Jericho.
While some marketers are struggling to find the right message during the novel coronavirus health crisis and others are pausing marketing completely, Chipotle is moving quickly to move its efforts to engage consumers online as millions of people stay home, with the new virtual Challenger Series tournament following its announcement of a series of sessions on videoconferencing site Zoom.
"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 said in the press release about the virtual tournament news.
Chipotle launched its Challenger Series last year through a partnership with DreamHack gaming festival which was held in-person in Dallas, TX last year.
Esports is an emerging opportunity for Chipotle, which has been pushing into new territories under the direction of new CMO Chris Brandt for the past year and a half. Brandt has been looking to transform the brand’s image and reach younger audiences through digital channels following its food safety crisis in 2015.
Other marketers could start to follow Chipotle's lead as major sports leagues cancel playing seasons, causing sponsors to look elsewhere to invest their sports marketing budgets and potentially giving esports marketing a boost. Esports could also see an increase in viewership as consumers stuck at home look for entertaining content to stream. Esports have been on the rise with ad revenues in the category estimated to reach $200 million this year in the U.S. alone, according to an eMarketer report from last year.
In another example of brands betting on esports right now, energy sports drink G Fuel recently revealed plans to extend its sponsorship of the esports group FaZe clan. As part of the partnership, G Fuel built a studio for the clan's gaming and content production.