Elevating Portillo’s as the Quintessential Chicago Experience

“Be Chicago” Media Campaign Drives Best Quarterly Call for Business

Portillo’s, the iconic Chicago fast-casual chain, partnered with Net Conversion to solidify its status as a quintessential Chicago dining experience, targeting both new residents and long-time locals through a comprehensive campaign focused on driving brand awareness, foot traffic, and brand affinity within the greater Chicago area.

The Challenge

While Portillo’s held a strong position in the Chicago market, the brand recognized the need to actively engage a growing demographic of new residents who might not be familiar with its legacy.  The campaign needed to educate this audience on Portillo’s deep roots in the city’s culture to solidify its “quintessential Chicago” status. The primary objective was to firmly establish Portillo’s as an unmissable part of living in or visiting Chicago. This involved driving awareness among new residents while also re-engaging lapsed customers or occasional visitors.

Our goals included:

  • Increase brand search volume for Portillo’s within Chicago and Phoenix markets.
  • Drive foot traffic resulting in significant in-store sales growth at Chicago locations.
  • Generate positive brand sentiment and foster emotional connection with Chicago-centric messaging.

Media Plan

  • Linear: NFL Bear Games, 6am News Roadblock, Survivor Finale, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, The Voice Finale, SEC Football Championship
  • CTV: Katz TV for NBA Bulls Games Placements  
  • Out-Of-Home: Multiple Tollway High-Traffic Highways
  • Barstool Sports: TikTok, Meta, YouTube, X, Spotify, Apple Music, Instagram
  • Audio: YouTube Music 
  • OLV: YouTube
  • Social: TikTok, Meta, Instagram


The “Be Chicago” campaign delivered significant financial and branding results for Portillo’s. Financially, the campaign proved to be a robust investment, evidenced by a stock price surge and a return on ad spend (ROAS) of $3.36. These figures not only showcase the campaign’s direct impact on Portillo’s bottom line but also its effectiveness in leveraging advertising dollars. In terms of branding success, the campaign achieved a remarkable 107% increase in branded impressions and an 8.6% incremental lift, contributing to an 8% year-over-year growth in brand demand for Portillo’s in a market where interest in quick service restaurants (QSR) generally was on the decline. This indicates a strong consumer resonance with the campaign’s messaging and a solidification of the Portillo’s brand in the competitive landscape.

The campaign also saw impressive results in more localized metrics and new customer acquisition. Specifically, Portillo’s Illinois restaurants located near the city center reported year-over-year sales increases of 7% and 8%, alongside a significant 16% point shift in spend share toward these areas. This localized growth underscores the effectiveness of the campaign’s targeted approach within strategic regions. Additionally, the Chicago market experienced a notable surge in new user acquisition, outperforming expectations with a 41% year-over-year growth and a 23% increase compared to similar control markets. These outcomes highlight the success of the “Be Chicago” campaign in not only engaging existing customers but also in attracting new patrons, further solidifying the brand’s presence and influence in a key market.


Net Conversion’s marketing approach for Portillo’s was meticulously designed to fuse the brand with the essence of Chicago across various strategic domains. At the heart of their creative strategy was the aim to intertwine the images of “Portillo’s” and “Chicago” within the consumer psyche. This objective was realized by incorporating a mix of vivid visuals and tailored text in their advertisements. Prominent Chicago landmarks such as the city skyline, the iconic Bean sculpture, and picturesque neighborhood streets were featured across the campaign’s visual media. Copywriters skillfully weaved Chicago slang, nods to cherished local sports teams, and other cultural references into the ad copy, striking a chord with both lifelong residents and newcomers by broadcasting the city’s unique charm and community spirit.

In terms of media strategy, Net Conversion employed a dual approach. They chose high-impact channels to ensure widespread recognition of Portillo’s as a hallmark of Chicago culture. This included bespoke integrations and sponsorships that placed Portillo’s at the heart of the Chicago sports scene. Notable initiatives included in-game branded moments during Chicago Bears games which captured the enthusiasm of the sports audience. Additionally, strategic Out-of-Home placements on billboards and transit platforms amplified visibility in areas with heavy footfall, reinforcing the brand’s presence city-wide.

Our media plan for Portillo’s was strategically crafted to maximize reach and engagement across various channels. Leveraging linear TV, we secured placements during high-profile events such as NFL Bears games, morning news roadblocks, the Survivor finale, and other major televised events like Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and The Voice finale. Additionally, we targeted Chicago Bulls fans through CTV placements during NBA games via Katz TV. Out-of-home advertising was strategically placed on high-traffic toll highways, ensuring visibility to commuters. Partnering with Barstool Sports across multiple platforms including TikTok, Meta, YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and Instagram, we tapped into their engaged audience base. We also utilized YouTube Music for audio ads and YouTube for online video placements. Social media channels like TikTok, Meta, and Instagram were utilized to further amplify our message. Overall, our media plan was projected to reach approximately 115 million viewers, we secured an additional 15 million impressions (valued at $506k) in added value, including billboards, barstool sports placements, and a TikTok ad credit, providing significant extra exposure at no additional cost to the client.

To track our marketing strategy we used a well-defined measurement framework to meticulously track and evaluate the impact of our marketing efforts across defined KPIs. Targeting primarily fast casual diners, new residents of Chicago, and past purchasers who have decreased their visit frequency, we aim to capture a broad yet specific segment of the market. To measure success, we closely monitored a variety of KPIs, including reach, frequency, and impressions, which help us understand the extent of our audience engagement. Cost per thousand impressions (CPM) provides insights into the efficiency of our spending. Additionally, in-store transactions and revenue by market are crucial metrics that reflect direct financial outcomes of the campaigns. To gauge brand health and perception, we also analyzed brand demand, social sentiment indicators, and brand lift. These indicators together allowed us to assess both the quantitative and qualitative effects of our strategies, enabling us to optimize and refine our approach to better meet the needs of our audience and achieve our business objectives.

Client Quote

“Our media plan with Net Conversion definitely moved the needle for Portillo’s. Our traffic and sales numbers for the fourth quarter were great, and beat analyst expectations.” – Nick Scarpino, Chief Marketing Officer at Portillo’s


We are one of Orlando’s coolest data-driven digital marketing agencies, and we needed an office to reflect that.

Our 11,844-square-foot office features a three-story open floor plan and nine rentable meeting and office spaces for employees to space out or collaborate. And our fully stocked basement bar and lounge, Murray’s, provides the perfect atmosphere to wind down after a long day.

Net Con Pop Culture

Pop culture is found throughout our office, but most notably in our love for film, and by film, we mean Bill Murray.

The Net Conversion office takes a humorous approach to the culture at work with the theme of our offices and meeting spaces, which feature names like “Ghostbusters,” “Groundhog’s Day,” and the office of “Big Ern McKraken.” The trend continues to our downstairs lounge appropriately named “Murray’s.”

Our Relentless Attitude On Display.

Want To Be The Next? Let’s Get Started!

Who knows, you could be our next case study.

Net Conversion gets in the trenches with each brand we work with, creating new, data-driven marketing strategies that drive superior long-term results.