Roll Up the Rim creator on iconic contest’s origins: ‘We didn’t have the money to do anything else’

A photograph of a Tim Hortons cup.
A photograph of a Tim Hortons cup. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Tim Hortons’ annual Roll Up the Rim promotion might well be Canada’s most iconic, enduring contest, but according to its creator, it was something he came up with on a whim.

Ron Buist, former marketing director with the coffee chain, told 680 CJOB the contest was developed years before the company became a huge multinational.

“We didn’t have the the money to do anything else,” said Buist. “Scratch-and-wins, pull tabs, things like that cost quite a bit more — double the price of the cup.

READ MORE: Roll Up the Rim 2020: Tim Hortons slashes contest while pushing app ‘rolls’

“I was having a meeting with our cup supplier that particular day. It was back in ’85. They laid one out like a dress pattern on a desk. It was flat. I asked what the different parts were on the cup, and they told me the white space on the top was where the rim was.

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“I said, ‘can you print there?’ and they said, ‘yes, you can.’ I said, ‘let’s give it a try’. And that’s how it got started.”

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Despite sweeping changes to the famous contest announced Wednesday — including customers collecting “rolls” online or through an app — the Roll Up the Rim concept remains deeply connected to the Tims brand.

Buist said there were no big prizes like cars or TVs in the early days, only food.

“The coffee and the doughnuts, the muffins and the cookies were a bottomless pit,” he said.

“I mean, we could produce them as long as you wanted them, so it was the perfect kind of contest to make it work.

“The beauty of the place at that time… what was going on was we had to try to make it work. We led the pack, not just with contests, but with the product itself.”

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READ MORE: Tim Hortons tops list as MPs’ favourite restaurant. They expensed $116K over 4 years

The 2020 Roll Up the Rim contest will  run for four weeks from March 11 until April 7, according to the newly-published rules.

That’s much shorter than last year, when Tim Hortons ran the promotion for 10 weeks, from Feb. 6 until April 17, 2019.

Tim Hortons changes up their iconic Roll Up the Rim
Tim Hortons changes up their iconic Roll Up the Rim