Leveraging a Soccer Star’s Surprise Homecoming to Honor Fans and Increase Awareness of Chipotle as “Real Food for Real Athletes”

Chipotle Mexican Grill is a fast-casual restaurant cultivating a better world by serving responsibly-sourced, real food with wholesome ingredients without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. The brand partnered with a female professional soccer player and Cincinnati hometown hero ahead of and following the international association football competition, including a post-victory surprise visit to a youth soccer club team in Cincinnati at Chipotle. During the visit, the professional athlete chatted with the youth players and took photos, and went behind the line to build her go-to Chipotle order that helps fuel her training and on-field achievements.

Media Relations & Influencer Marketing
Communications Strategy & Planning
Multi-Unit Restaurants
2020 Silver Pick Award


With little lead time and without ruining the surprise, Linhart PR needed to generate positive local news coverage of the player’s restaurant visit and also communicate Chipotle’s commitment to Real Food for Real Athletes.


Linhart PR developed the following approach to drive results:

  • Target the Right Reporters: Research and pitch Cincinnati reporters that cover the women’s professional soccer team, the international governing body of association football, and the professional female soccer player, while working with the player’s agent and the local youth soccer club, to identify and invite reporters planning to attend the player’s other hometown welcome and victory events scheduled for that day.
  • Conduct Local Media Outreach: Invite target reporters to attend the surprise to 1.) witness and capture the reaction of the youth team during the professional athlete’s entrance, 2.) photograph and film the player preparing her favorite Chipotle order with the local restaurant team, to demonstrate the brand’s dedication to fueling athletes at all levels with real food and 3.) interview the athlete and the youth team members and coaches.
  • Staff Surprise Event: Have a PR representative on-site at the event – in this case, it was Linhart PR – to coordinate with attending media to provide additional information and details, answer questions and encourage interviews, all to ensure coverage shared key messages.


Linhart PR succeeded in securing surprise event attendance from Cincinnati’s main daily newspaper and all four broadcast stations, ultimately generating 34 stories and 22 million impressions. Specifically:

  • 24 online and broadcast stories + social posts about the athlete’s surprise Chipotle visit, complete with photos of the youth players and b-roll of the athlete taking selfies with them in outlets like the Cincinnati Enquirer, the city’s daily newspaper. All broadcast stations covered the event, but three out of four covered the surprise multiple times, both on TV and online
  • 10 online and broadcast stories + social posts about the athlete going behind the line to make her go-to Chipotle order on TV stations like WXIX-TV (FOX — Cincinnati) 

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