Tim Hortons PR - Spider



Tim Hortons is a Canadian coffee shop whose Double Double Coffee and Timbit mini donuts are revered throughout the Great White North. In Canada, Tim Hortons is less a coffee shop and more a religion with millions of Canadians worshipping daily at this temple of caffeine. So when Tim Hortons was launching in the UK, it briefed Spider to generate more buzz than an electric beehive – and fast! With most Brits unaware of the cult of Tims, we set about making some serious noise through Tim Hortons PR and social (in a very polite, Canadian way of course.)

Even we were blown away by how readily the UK embraced their new coffee saviours. Queues around the block, a Tim Hortons PR media event at 8:30 on a Monday morning with 102% attendance (yes, you read that right), and almost religious excitement on social channels…

Crucially we were able to transfer Canadian’s love of Tim Hortons to a UK audience in record time leading to a most successful launch.

pieces of coverage

people reached in the first two months,


average engagement rate

Tim Hortons PR - Spider

The Client

Tim Hortons is one of the world’s biggest coffee chains. Hailing from Canada, there are Tims on every corner and it is very much part of the social fabric of the nation. The Tim Hortons® brand was founded by its namesake, a top professional ice hockey player, who wanted to create a space where everyone would feel at home. As it turns out, Tim was even better at serving up coffee and doughnuts than he was a hockey player (and he was a *really* good hockey player). Fast forward to 2018 and nearly eight out of 10 cups of coffee sold across Canada are served at Tim Hortons® Restaurants, and more than 5.3 million Canadians – approximately 15 per cent of the population – visit the café daily. In recent years, Tim Hortons has begun to expand globally, and the UK was the first market it was entering in Europe.

They Said

Tim Hortons might be as Canadian as saying sorry to Justin Trudeau while wearing a moose suit, but in the UK, it was practically unknown. What’s more, the UK café market is incredibly saturated with a huge array of options available to consumers. The challenge was to establish Tim Hortons firmly in the minds of UK consumers by creating a strong and differentiated brand. We were also briefed to ensure three was huge Tim Hortons PR buzz around each local opening – even if it was in the boonies (Canadian for “middle of nowhere”)!

We partnered with Spider in early 2017 with one main objective – to generate a significant buzz to help us launch the Tim Hortons brand into the UK using a mix of social strategy, content and community management, Paid Social management and execution, Influencer marketing, etc.  Quickly, they got down to work and immersed themselves in our brand to help us open our first restaurant in Glasgow, and 17 others around the UK in just 12 months. I can say with confidence that Spider has achieved this aim, and exceeded our expectations

Neil Littler, CMO UK and Ireland

Challenge Accepted

Our first task was to make the big announcement that Tim Hortons was coming to the UK. Where better to do this than at the iconic Canada House in Trafalgar Square? Our Tim Hortons PR event took place at 08:30 on a rainy Monday morning. We had 100 journalists slated to attend… and, amazingly, every single one turned up. And some more that were just passing by. For a coffee and a donut. On a Monday Morning. Unheard of!

Once the news had broken, the social channels went into hype hyperdrive, with our team offering extremely proactive community management to ensure record levels of engagement and brand loyalty. We then continued to seed stories about Tim Hortons and the amazing food and drink that punters could expect when the first store opened in Glasgow.

We knew the first store opening would be key so developed a strategic plan to ensure everyone and their dog (and their dog’s dog) knew about the opening. Targeted Tim Hortons PR activity built awareness, while a social media takeover kept the hype-o-meter at breaking point. The queue started to form overnight and there were hundreds and hundreds eagerly waiting by 9 am (entertained by our performing Mounties) before the doors finally opened creating one hell of a scene. Our work was done (at least until the next 15 stores opened)! No mounties were harmed during the opening of this store.

We replicated our strategy to great effect, ensuring each and every location got off to a roaring start.

Job Done

Our campaign, over a period of 18 months:


  • Secured 600+ pieces of coverage including the Daily Mail, The Sun, Metro, Independent and The Times
  • Gained 75,000+ new community members
  • Reached 9,541,055 people in the first two months, achieving an average engagement rate of 8.2%
  • Our first piece of content reached 1.2m people, received 40k reactions, 94k post clicks and was shared 4k times with 100% positive sentiment

What We Learnt

Launching an international retail food and drink brand in is no easy task. We quickly realised our strategy needed integrated Tim Hortons PR and social media activity that would create an emotional attachment with Tim Hortons, giving it a defined role and a distinct presence in the hearts and minds of UK consumers.

What’s more, when it comes to launching international brands in the UK, we found that it can be incredibly valuable to harness the power of the expat to transfer their brand love and loyalty to new audiences.


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