Fast food and gaming have always had a natural connection, but over the last year in particular, major fast-food brands like McDonald’s, KFC, Chick-fil-A, and others have increasingly set their sights on the growing esports market. Chipotle has been making a concerted effort to gain more traction among esports viewers, partnering last year with skating legend Tony Hawk on a streaming event, and hosting its own Chipotle Challenger Series with numerous esports pros and influencers.
The third annual tournament in that series was held in March, featuring stars from the esports and sports worlds, including JuJu Smith-Schuster and several members of 100 Thieves. Many of the streamers involved were also tapped to promote Chipotle’s new quesadillas, 30,000 of which were given away to fans.
According to Stephanie Perdue, Chipotle’s Vice President of Brand Marketing, the company has strategically partnered with esports orgs and streamers who are already passionate about the food that Chipotle offers. This leads to more organic and genuine marketing for the company directly from influencers in the space.
“It’s very important to be authentic in that community and to have a long-term commitment. Chipotle has been in the gaming space since 2016, and for us it’s been about increasing our investment in the space,” she told MediaPost, citing 100 Thieves as the “hugest fans” of Chipotle even before any partnerships. The work that Chipotle’s marketing team has done to position itself within the esports ecosystem appears to be working, according to Interpret’s Esports Replay™, which shows that 21% of US esports viewers have eaten at Chipotle in the past three months, ahead of the general population and non-esports viewers by several percentage points. That being said, Chipotle still has plenty of room for growth in esports, as the chain is tied for eighth place among US esports viewers, behind leaders McDonald’s and Burger King, who have seen 63% and 44% of esports viewers, respectively, eating at their establishments in the past three months.