Burger King, Bud Light and Chipotle Brought Their D-to-C Strategies to Super Bowl LIII

Legacy brands are partnering with challengers

A Burger King box
Burger King sent out Mystery Boxes in a partnership with DoorDash during the Super Bowl.
Photo: Dianna McDougall for Adweek

The Super Bowl has historically been an occasion for introducing new ideas to the masses. Apple’s “1984” spot, which debuted the Macintosh home computer 35 years ago, is a classic example. During Super Bowl LIII, another big, new idea emerged. It is subtler than Apple’s epic announcement, but represents a harbinger of things to come: Legacy brands are locking arms with challenger brands.

Burger King, Bud Light and Chipotle were among large brands that emulated direct-to-consumer (D-to-C) startups to bring their products into the homes of people across the U.S.

Burger King, working with courier services DoorDash and Postmates, made the biggest splash on this front. As part of its multichannel Super Bowl campaign, Burger King consistently featured its DoorDash partnership, highlighting a home delivery offer of $10 Mystery Boxes in video and TV spots. Meanwhile, Postmates offered free Burger King delivery for orders $10 or greater during the Super Bowl via the fast-food chain’s app.

Why did Burger King work with not one but two delivery startups and invest meaningful ad budget to push the DoorDash offer? All of retail and merchandising are reacting to a massive shift in shopping behavior: One-third of consumers plan to do at least 40 percent of their shopping from D-to-C companies in the next five years, while 81 percent plan to make at least one purchase from a D-to-C brand.

It’s a watershed time for D-to-C businesses as the retail world wakes up to the magic created by companies like Glossier, Casper, Everlane and Rent the Runway. Traditional brands are looking to get a piece of that magic, whether by acquiring promising startups or introducing new services that deliver a D-to-C experience.

On Sunday, for the first time during a Super Bowl, we saw this D-to-C mindset enter American culture’s biggest stage, taking last year’s momentum up a notch. Drizly struck a deal with Anheuser-Busch over the summer to promote its beers. That tie-up manifested significantly for the first time with Drizly’s Big Game promotion for Bud Light offering a $10 discount on delivery orders.

Chipotle, on the other hand, had been building up to this moment: It also offered free delivery via Postmates during the College Football Championship Series last month. Chipotle’s D-to-C-minded home delivery strategy, centered around the biggest games, seems here to stay.

It’s worth noting that Burger King has tried home delivery for the last several years but has never made the splash it did during the Big Game. And marketers for the brand are wise to promote their partnership with last-mile delivery services, which have post-purchase chops that a fast-food chain like Burger King doesn’t possess.

Services like DoorDash and Postmates do an excellent job of communicating with customers, informing them via email, text message and push notification about where their order is and when they can expect it. While consumers may not enjoy being inundated by digital alerts, they do appreciate proactive delivery notices.

The Super Bowl demonstrated that retail and merchandising in 2019 is a whole new game. During this year’s biggest moment in advertising, Burger King, Bud Light and Chipotle showed they understand how modern brands are transforming the customer experience. They gave us a glimpse into the next decade when legacy brands—either through acquisitions, partnerships or mimicry—will have to evolve in order to survive this revolution in retail.

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