Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) is capitalizing on the surging interest in esports -- professional video gaming -- resulting from coronavirus-related lockdowns. On Thursday, the fast-casual restaurant chain announced its 2020 Chipotle Challenger Series of gaming competitions, which gives esports fans a chance to win $25,000 cash, $25,000 to donate to COVID-19 relief efforts, and free food for a year.
The Chipotle Challenger Series was created last year at the DreamHack event in Dallas, Texas, where players physically came together to compete. This year's competition will be completely virtual and feature participation by professional video game players like Matt "Nadeshot" Haag, and athletes like basketball player DeMarcus Cousins and soccer player Allie Long.
Like last year, the Chipotle Challenger Series will pit participating teams against one another using several different games; the game for the first series will be unveiled on April 6. The first qualifying matches will begin on April 16, with the finale slated for April 25.
Interest in this year's series could be particularly strong given the circumstances. Not only are millions of consumers stuck at home waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to abate, but all major sports leagues and series have suspended play. That's left sports fans and athletes with little to do, so they've gone online to watch and compete. The cancellation of car racing events two weekends ago prompted online virtual versions of the same races, observed by more than half a million viewers. Meanwhile, digital versions of NBA basketball games are being aired via cable broadcasts, complete with commentary.