Tim Hortons gets serious about Roll Up the Rim

The QSR has increased the spend behind the long-running contest with long-form digital spots and a bigger social play.


Tim Hortons has put more spend behind its annual Roll Up the Rim campaign this year as the chain continues to work towards strengthening equity in the brand following a challenging year.

The 33-year-old Roll Up the Rim contest returned to stores this week with the support of four digital spots, out-of-home executions and a more robust social play.

The campaign looks back on the history of Roll Up the Rim, treating it with the seriousness of a professional sport that Canadians prepare for all year long. In a mockumentary-style approach, fictional Roll Up players are cast as “legends” who, through their steadfast commitment and competitive spirit, are supposed to represent the passion Canadians have for the “Great Sport of Roll Up.”

In developing the concept, the QSR ran focus groups to gather stories of customers’ own Roll Up traditions, memories and rivalries, says Jana Goodbaum, lead of integrated marketing communications. “We wanted to lean into the fact that everyone has their own relationship with Roll Up and their own stories.”

A longer, close-to-two-minute format was chosen for the spots to enable deeper story telling, Goodbaum says. Digital also allows Tim’s to reach younger customers “who may not have as strong a connection with the program as their parents do.”

Zulu Alpha Kilo led creative, with The French Shop handling a French adaptation and Horizon Media overseeing media. North Strategic is working on PR and 500 Degrees on design.

The new work is not the only investment Tim Hortons has made in Roll Up this year, an area where the company typically focuses on more tactical marketing at the store level. “We sort of realize that this is such a gem from a marketing perspective,” Goodbaum says, “and we really felt like there was an opportunity to do more with Roll Up this year.”

In January, the brand debuted a “Please Play Again” TV commercial, the second of six spots planned as part of its recently relaunched “True Stories” platform. Unlike with the “Legends,” however, that spot about a hockey dad who inspires his son’s team to return to the ice in spite of defeat is supposed to be an emotional and accurate depiction of events. While Zulu led the latest Roll Up campaign, U.S.-based Gut was recruited to relaunched the “True Stories” platform on a global level in November.

Tims-RollUpThe most recent effort includes billboards in markets across Canada featuring inspirational messaging like “Roll big or roll home.” The Gretzky-inspired “You miss 100% of the rims you don’t roll” is reminiscent of Tim Hortons’ hockey roots, which the brand has recently made a priority in its communications, from an October film about Kenyan hockey players, to the design and branded environment of its new headquarters in downtown Toronto.

While the brand will always be associated with hockey, Goodbaum says, “Legends” is “more about that fact that Roll Up is something that people have this sports-like relationship with.”

On the digital side, the chain has partnered with traffic app Waze and the Score, incorporating advertising directly into the apps. It’s also encouraging customers to post pictures of their own Roll Up moments on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for a chance to win a Jeep Compass. The social play includes additional stories about the Roll Up “Legends,” a promoted trend piece, a custom Twitter emoji and branded GIFs.

Last year was a difficult one for the company, as it fell in a number of brand rankings following disputes involving franchisees, wages and marketing spend. Those challenges extended into the Roll Up program, with some customers arguing it was failing to address the issues.

But Tim Hortons has been working to re-energize the brand. In addition to re-launching “True Stories,” it has unveiled a new kids menu, expanded its retail product selection, announced $700 in store renos, and brought on new global marketing leadership, including a new CMO, new global creative head and new chief corporate officer at parent company RBI.