Tim Hortons gets NHL stars in-store

Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon take a shift in their hometown Tims, while the QSR gets into the trading card game.

Tim Hortons is reinforcing its connection to hockey fans with a new hockey card promotion and a campaign bringing two of the game’s biggest stars closer to home.

The series of videos shows Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon, both from Cole Harbour, NS, spending a day working the drive-thru at a Tim Hortons in the community near Halifax. A longer video shows the pair struggling to adapt to their new environment, with several shorter ones showing them quizzing customers with hockey trivia to get a free coffee. MacKinnon is a good sport when customers asked to name a local NHL player name Crosby again and again, but it comes to a tipping point when a man struggling to recall that he was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Year in 2013 turns out to be his father.

“We have a long history of telling community-focused stories and over the last year or so have been surprising our guests with brand experiences, whether that’s blacking out a restaurant or putting a touque on it or levitating a customer,” says Peter Nowlan, CMO at Tim Hortons Canada. “This is one more fun chapter of that.”

The campaign also includes radio, digital and social over the next few weeks. JWT handled creative on the campaign, with Mindshare on media, North Strategic on social and Paradigm on PR.

The campaign is one of several initiatives Tim Hortons has planned this year to find new ways to connect to Canada’s hockey fans and, next week, an ad in the series will debut promoting the new line of hockey cards available in stores through a partnership with the NHL, NHLPA and trading card company Upper Deck. Unique edits will also air during the broadcasts of each Canadian team’s first game. Packs will contain three of 100 cards exclusive to Tims, which could include a special player card of founder Tim Horton, autographed cards and NHL Jersey Relic Cards containing pieces of game-worn jerseys. Crosby has also personally signed 87 cards featuring him as a Timbits player in Cole Harbour.

Upper Deck previously had a partnership with McDonald’s Canada in the 1990s and early 2000s. The national promotion ended following the 2009-2010 season, though a regional version was launched in Quebec featuring the Canadiens for the 2011-2012 season.

“We know from testing that there’s an awful lot of excitement out there for these cards,” Nowlan says, adding that the restaurant has a number of surprises planned around the promotion in October. “It’s an admittedly broad target, but we’re thinking of it as an all-ages target. Some parents and grandparents, we suspect, are going to be keeping some of the cards for themselves.”

Each pack also contains a PIN that unlocks digital cards, and by going to the promotion website consumers can trade those cards with people across the country for a chance to win prizes including a trip to the NHL All-Star Weekend and an EA Sports NHL ’16 Playstation 4 prize package. The trading platform was created by digital agency Thrillworks.

“Anyone who traded cards as a kid will remember it always had such a wonderful element of community,” Nowlan says. “Trading brought people together, whether it was kids or kids at heart. By taking it online, those communities can still be local and in our stores, but also national.”

Tim Hortons has a well-established connection with hockey, from its roots with its founder to sponsoring Timbits hockey teams across the country, to partnerships with all seven Canadian teams, but the chain is looking to further enhance that connection.

“It’s part of the brand’s DNA and always will be,” Nowlan says. “We have such a long tradition of involvement with hockey, and our fans are also hockey fans. It’s natural to have hockey at the centre of so many of our conversations.”