Tim Hortons is digitizing Roll Up The Rim

Tim Hortons introduced big changes to its famous “Roll Up The Rim” giveaway promotion on Wednesday, updates the company says will be better for the environment, while also encouraging customers to sign up for its digital loyalty program, Tims Rewards.

The promotion is running for four weeks beginning March 11. And while customers will still get a chance to win prizes by rolling up the rim of their paper disposable cups as they have for years, the familiar cup-based version will only be available for two weeks.

Tim Hortons is moving many of the prize giveaways to a digital format tied to Tims Rewards. While the approach will likely drive adoption and use of the relatively new program, Tim Hortons is emphasizing the environmental benefits of its increased digital emphasis (the press release uses the word “sustainable” seven times).

Anyone buying a hot beverage in a disposable cup during the first two weeks will still get a chance to win, but they’ll get a second chance if they are registered with the loyalty program.

However anyone using a reusable cup will get three “digital rolls” added to their digital account. On March 10, Tim Hortons is giving away 1.8 million reusable cups for free, part of its 10-year commitment to encourage customers to switch to reusable cups. As a further incentive to register with the loyalty program, Tim Hortons has also eliminated the “Please Play Again” for digital rolls; every digital roll will give players a chance to win $100,000 each week of the promotion. Paper cups that don’t reveal a prize will encourage the customer to use the Tim Hortons app with their next purchase to get the chance at $100,000.

“We listened to the feedback from our guests, who wanted us to modernize the program,” said Hope Bagozzi, the recently named chief marketing officer at Tim Hortons. “The contest will allow for a combination of paper, digital and sustainable play… We will reward guests who make the sustainable choice by using a reusable cup and scanning their Tims Rewards card with three digital rolls.”

Brand strategist Mark Tomblin, founder of Thinking Unstuck, said that the changes were necessary and will likely be positive for the brand, but noted that because so many people feel connected to the Tim Hortons brand, any change to its most popular promotion will generate lots of discussion.

“I’m sure hearts were in mouths when they announced the radical changes for this year’s version of the event,” he said.

“Brands with the slightest pretence to cleaning up their environmental acts need to take more initiatives like this and explain why they are doing so clearly—just as Tims has done in this case,” he added. “It’s only a start, but it’s a good one, all the more so because it will doubtless start many relevant conversations across the country about the reasoning behind the decision.”

The changes will almost certainly help Tim Hortons collect more consumer information, said Mengze Shi, a professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “That to me is one thing they are doing right.”

It should also resonate with a younger generation of consumers who are more worried about the environment and prefer to interact with brands digitally. “So that potentially will make the campaign more sticky with a new generation,” said Shi.

However, he is less certain about the benefits of ending the paper Roll Up the Rim cups after just two weeks. Many people who are accustomed to paper cups may still use the paper cup, but won’t get a chance to win unless they download the app. That could be an inconvenience for some customers, he said.

However, Tim Hortons seems to have predicted suggestions that some customers will be turned off by having to go to digital to play Roll Up The Rim this year. “Our small town restaurants serve a rural community, but our guests are just as digital as you would find in bigger cities around the country,” said Tanya Doucette, Tim Hortons restaurant owner, Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, in the release announcing the changes.

“About half our customers every day are using the Tims Rewards program and I know they will really like the improved chances of winning on the app and the weekly draws of $100,000.”


David Brown