Earlier this week, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Major League Soccer (MLS) announced that the popular chain restaurant will be the “Official Fast-Casual Mexican Restaurant” of MLS and 12 MLS Clubs. (You can read the press release here.) This will be Chipotle’s largest single sports partnership, and their CMO Mark Crumpacker said in a statement that the partnership reflects shared values between its brand and people with active lifestyles. Through the partnership, Chipotle will launch unique promotions and campaigns to reach MLS fans in the U.S., and create a new Chipotle-branded MLS “Homegrown Game” to reach youth soccer.
The consumer data we’ve collected at CivicScience indicates that Chipotle made a fairly tasty brand alignment choice with this MLS partnership, and we’re going to tell you why:
We looked at tens of thousands of fans of Chipotle (consumers who said they “love” or “like” Chipotle) and how those fans also separately ranked how closely they follow major sports leagues in the U.S. We compared them with the general population, weighted for U.S census demographics, and here’s what we found:
- Of all the major sports leagues we looked at – the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and MLS – the MLS is followed the least closely by Chipotle fans and the NFL is followed the most, though probably not surprising in the U.S. But don’t shake your head just yet… the data reveal more as we dig in.
- Across all of those leagues, more Chipotle fans follow those sports closely when compared to the general population.
- Among those who say they “love” Chipotle, 17% say they follow MLS either very closely or somewhat closely vs. the general population where only 7% say the same. At 2.42, MLS had the largest fandom difference comparing Chipotle lovers to the general population.
- The NBA ranked second-highest (1.88) in having a higher percent of Chipotle lovers who closely follow the league (32%) when compared to the general population (17%).
- Those were followed by: the NHL (1.47), MLB (1.17), and the NFL (1.14). This data may suggest that Chipotle could get a bigger “bang for their buck” by partnering with MLS.
Among consumers who have “never heard of” Chipotle:
- For those who say they have never heard of Chipotle, they are more likely to closely follow the MLS than the general population. This is the only league in the U.S. where its avid sports fans have lower Chipotle brand awareness than the general population.
We also decided to also take a grab-bag look at health and wellness questions from our CivicScience library, to compare Chipotle fans to fans of other fast-casual Mexican chain restaurants (including Baja Fresh, Qdoba Mexican Grill, and Moe’s Southwest Grill) and to the general population. Our data from tens of thousands of respondents in these areas found:
- Exercise: 46% of Chipotle fans vs. 39% of the general population say they exercise at least several times per week. Among all the fast-casual Mexican chains, Baja Fresh fans lead in this category at 48%.
- Smoking: 80% of Chipotle fans vs. 79% of the general population say they are currently non-smokers. (Qdoba has the least at 88% fans saying they are non-smokers.)
- Nutrition Awareness: 67% of Chipotle fans vs. 59% of the general population say they read the nutritional information of most food items they purchase at the grocery store. (72% of Baja Fresh fans said the same.)
- Vitamin Supplements: 65% of Chipotle fans say they take vitamin or nutritional supplements several times a week or more – the smallest percentage of the 4 fast-casual Mexican chains but still higher than the 58% of the general population.
- Weight: 51% of Chipotle fans consider themselves to be overweight vs. 54% of the general population answering the same, and have the least percent of fans here of the 4 fast-casual Mexican chains.
In general, the data suggest that Chipotle’s alignment with MLS should resonate well with fan bases of both, present a good opportunity for growing its brand awareness to find new customers, as well as continue to reinforce their brand among consumers focused on healthier eating and living.
(Note: We invite you to also access a recent report we did comparing Chipotle and the other leading fast-casual Mexican chains in the U.S. regarding their use of social media and technology. You can access the free report here.)