Chipotle’s debut Super Bowl spot highlights support for local farmers

Dive Brief:

  • Chipotle Mexican Grill will premiere its first Super Bowl commercial during the Feb. 7 game’s second quarter. The fast-casual chain’s spot, titled “Can a Burrito Change the World?,” highlights the effect of Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” standards to help cut carbon emissions, save water and support local growers, per an announcement shared with Marketing Dive.
  • Chipotle on Super Bowl Sunday will waive delivery fees on orders received through the Chipotle app and website. With every order made on those platforms and third-party delivery services, the restaurant will donate $1 to the National Young Farmers Coalition, an advocacy group that promotes independent family farms. Customers also can round up their order total to the next highest dollar amount for an additional donation.
  • The promotion comes as marketers across categories consider what kind of tone they should adopt in their Super Bowl ads. Humorous ads have tended to get attention in past games, but the pandemic, sluggish economy and emphasis on social justice issues may lead brands to highlight how they’re helping people and communities, a theme in Chipotle’s spot.

Dive Insight:

While traditionally big-name Super Bowl advertisers like Pepsi and Coca-Cola are sitting out this year’s game, Chipotle is banking on the annual TV event to help it reach a large, highly engaged audience. CMO Chris Brandt, in a statement, called the chain’s first Super Bowl appearance “a milestone moment for our brand.”

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The decision to invest in a Super Bowl ad — a 30-second spot is reportedly selling for $5.5 million — follows a banner year for Chipotle, which saw overall sales grow 14.1% in the third quarter of 2020 and digital sales more than triple, reflecting how consumers have been seeking convenient and safe ways to order food as social distancing measures remain in place. With coronavirus infection rates still high, the chain can leverage the Super Bowl’s popularity to help it maintain its recent growth and build awareness among a wide audience.

While some signs show the NFL playoffs are seeing lower viewership than they did a year ago, live sports are still a big draw on linear TV compared with other kinds of televised entertainment that compete with streaming services. The upcoming Super Bowl is already generating significant publicity for pitting Tom Brady, the 43-year-old quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who has played in a record nine Super Bowls and won six, against defending champion Patrick Mahomes, quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs.

By showcasing its sustainability efforts in its Super Bowl ad, which was created by Venables Bell & Partners, Chipotle is maintaining a theme it started in October. The themes present in its Super Bowl ad reflect how Chipotle believes the coronavirus has changed consumer behavior, with a greater importance on community, per the release.

Last fall, Chipotle created a “Real Foodprint” tracker that lets customers view the potential cumulative effect of their orders, comparing them with the usage of conventional ingredients. The metrics include carbon emissions, water savings, soil health, support for organic land and antibiotics usage. It also has supported independent farmers through its Chipotle Virtual Farmers Market and other programs like its Aluminaries Project 2.0. Chipotle committed $5 million over five years to support startup farmers and ranchers, and has spent more than $300 million in food premiums to buy supplies that are responsibly sourced, humanely raised and often locally grown, per its announcement.

“We want to use this massive platform to help shift attention toward creating positive change for the challenges our food system faces and educate consumers on how they can make difference,” Brandt said in a statement.

That message is likely to resonate with Super Bowl viewers, recent research suggest. Sixty percent of U.S. adults said they plan to watch the game on Feb. 7, and 60% of those said it’s appropriate for brands to support social justice in ads during the big game, market researcher Morning Consult found. While many viewers are open to seeing ads that support causes, audiences also want to be entertained, with 63% of likely Super Bowl viewers saying funny ads are their favorites, the study found.

Chipotle’s free delivery offer comes as the restaurant seeks to boost online ordering and repeat business with its loyalty program. Recent promotional efforts include a collaboration with food delivery app Uber Eats and Match Group’s Hinge dating app on a special menu for “cuffing season,” and a revamped “Boorito” promotion for Halloween with offer codes on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter.

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