Chipotle Challenger Series morphs from gaming festivals to indoor competition

Amateur esports players will compete for cash, food and COVID-19 donations in a series of events.

Chipotle is continuing its commitment to esports amateurs by moving its Chipotle Challenger Series from the real-world of gaming conventions to the online universe, in light of COVID-19 disruptions.

While much of the sports world has shut down, from pre-season Little League to the Tokyo Olympics, esports was built for solitary, indoor play. Now in its second year, qualifying rounds of the Challenger Series will be played online and the April 25th finale event will stream on Twitch and YouTube. 

Last year, Chipotle kicked off its Challenger Series by partnering with DreamHack’s real-life gaming festival and lifestyle events in Dallas and Atlanta and with ESL’s Intel Extreme Masters in Chicago.   

"Bringing the Chipotle Challenger Series online provides the perfect platform to directly engage new and loyal esports fans," said Chris Brandt, CMO of Chipotle, in a statement.  "We are excited to connect up-and-coming talent in the space with their gaming heroes for a real competition with huge prizes."

Finale winners in each selected game will win $25,000 along with an additional $25,000 going to COVID-19 relief efforts. They’ll also win a year’s worth of Chipotle food. 

Chipotle will announce which actual games will be in contention on April 6, also when the registration portal will open.

The Newport, Calif., based chain has been quick to adapt to digital marketing and events, particularly as college students have proven to be an important demographic and quick to adopt the brand’s app-based delivery platform. Chipotle is also a familiar brand on social media, including TikTok, where popular personalities David Dobrik and Brittany Broski have demonstrated their fondness for the food.

"Our fans have a significant overlap with the demographics also found within the gaming community," said Stephanie Perdue, vice president of brand marketing. "For example, Chipotle over indexes with Gen Z and Gen Y many of whom are active gamers."

In addition to ads on Twitch and YouTube, the event will be promoted online by popular gamers, professional athletes and celebrities who like to play. These names include Matt "Nadeshot" Haag and Brooke "BrookeAB" Bond, esports stars who are behind Los Angeles’ 100 Thieves’ gaming, entertainment and apparel brand. Fan-favorite streamers Myth and Jack "CouRage" Dunlop are also on board.

Throughout the qualifying events, which begin April 16th, Chipotle Challenger Series participants will have the opportunity to play against "in real life" athletes such as NBA players Marcus Smart, Josh Hart and DeMarcus Cousins, DJ/gaming fan Steve Aoki and Finn Wolfhard, one of the stars of "Stranger Things" and "It."

The burrito brand, which is "looking to bring more joy to its fans and bridge important digital connections during this time of uncertainty," according to an announcement, is also riding a surge of popularity for esports.

Verizon has reported 75 percent gains in online gaming during peak hours in North America.

Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s executive vice president of gaming, in a corporate blog stated: "Many are looking to gaming to remain connected with their friends while practicing social distancing, and we are seeing an unprecedented demand for gaming from our customers right now."

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