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SBD/March 15, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship
Chipotle's Celebrity Card Program Brings Exposure, Saves Endorsement Expenditures
Published March 15, 2013
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GOODEN & PLENTY: Bucks F Drew Gooden about a year ago went into a local franchise in Milwaukee and, after finding out from an employee about the celebrity card, expressed interest in getting one. Gooden did not hear about it until earlier this year when he unexpectedly received a package from the company with one in it. He immediately went on Twitter and wrote, "Good looking Chipotle!! Free Burrito's for life!!! Thanks a lot!" Gooden said, "For them to send out a card for me to go and eat on the house, I'm going do my best to give them play for that and to help them in their marketing as much as possible." The unofficial status between the two parties has turned into a positive for some athletes. Pro lacrosse player Paul Rabil said, "Fans know when you're being truthful, when you're being honest, when you're just plugging a company and a lot of times that (mention of Chipotle) just comes from the sincerity of the moment you're in." He added, "Sometimes for me … it alleviates the pressure that may come from me supporting one of my actual sponsors, because it kind of creates an open conversation with my fan base."
GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN: The celebrity card program was born out of Chipotle's unique marketing philosophy of eschewing TV ads in favor of a word-of-mouth approach that relies on the power of personal recommendation. Chipotle Social Media Manager Joe Stupp said, "We don't really feel like TV is the way for us to go. It's an incredible expenditure, and while it may bring sales, at least kind of, you have to keep doing it. If you stop, it just drops off." He added, "Word of mouth is something that builds a lot stronger and it's not as artificial. We think our food sells itself, and that's one of the things that enables our word-of-mouth marketing."