Tim Hortons’ Anniversary Ad is About More Than Just the Brand

Tim Hortons

For the love of the game


There’s probably no fast food brand anywhere in the world as associated with a sport as Tim Hortons and Ice Hockey. Tim Horton himself was a hockey player, and the brand has always had close ties with Canada’s national sport. They’ve more than earned the right to talk about hockey and why it means so much to people, which is exactly the approach they take in this 60th birthday ad, which we’re spotlighting to coincide with the sport’s Stanley Cup.

“Tims” is an international brand now, but like the game its founder played, it’s inextricably linked to Canada itself. So an ad about the brand and the sport also doubles up as an ad about the country and its character: soft-spoken, stoical, but full of determination and pride. The ad is also a celebration of the inclusiveness of the sport – we see fans from a wide range of backgrounds, and plenty of screen time for women’s hockey and for para ice hockey.

That’s a lot to fit in, so the commercial opts for a voiceover route, landing in an area which feels less like a restaurant ad and more like a Nike style inspirational commercial. It’s a move away from category conventions which might have been risky in a less confident and well-executed ad. But Tim Hortons pulls the trick off, landing a strong Brand Fluency score of 93%. There’s no brand confusion, so the ad can get on with making people feel something.

And it succeeds admirably. This 60th anniversary spot gets a 4.9-Star Rating and an Exceptional short-term Spike score, way above the average Canada TV rating of 2.5-Stars. Our emotional Trace shows happiness rise quickly in the ad and remain strong and steady throughout, with few negative emotions getting in the way. It’s not a narrative ad, but it is an inspiring, feelgood piece of work.

We’ve put a few anniversary ads under the Test Your Ad spotlight recently – they’re a great way for a business to affirm its identity and remind audiences why they love the brand. What makes this Tim Hortons take on it work so well is that it goes further, talking not just about the brand but about hockey itself, really bringing across how well Tims understands the sport and why it’s such a part of Canadian culture. It confidently asserts the brand’s central position as a national icon without ever having to be explicit about it, and that understated (and rather Canadian!) approach works better than overt flag-waving or self-promotion ever would.

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