This Documentary About Rick Ross Is Actually a Pretty Impressive Ad for Checkers

Buying a franchise, then selling a story

It's not often you get to realize a childhood dream. And rapper Rick Ross just bought his—a Checkers franchise in his hometown, Carol City, Florida.

Curiouser still, the purchase has led to the creation of a tiny documentary, which the drive-through restaurant chain is using as branded content. 

Checkers doesn't do celebrity endorsements, but apparently Ross' affection for the brand shone so brightly in his franchise application that the brand sensed an opportunity. 

To get a sense of their options, client marketing director Scott Wakeman and Checkers agency Fitzgerald & Co. contacted Woven Digital, whose sites—Uproxx, Dime and BroBible—are hotspots for the young males that Ross appeals to. 

Conveniently, Woven also specializes in making documentaries that don't feel too branded. "It just felt like such a unique opportunity," Wakeman told The New York Times. 

The result appears below.

Shot mostly as Ross drives around Carol City, it's a story about where he's from, how it's impacted his music, and what he hopes to give back. It also answers any lingering curiosity you might have about why he wanted a Checkers in the first place: "The No. 1 hamburger in the game." 

The video is beautifully produced, artfully juxtaposing monuments from Ross' past to the vivid life of those who've inherited his streets. These moments often feel staged to deliver just the right amount of dramatic flair: 

What holds it together is Ross' stream-of-thought narration.

"As I'm riding down this street, I feel like I'm the same kid that would see the ice cream truck, jump on the back of it and ride on it for half a block," he says as he steers past his childhood home, then his high school. 

Halfway through, we learn about Checkers and its significance: At 13, Ross worked at a car wash across the street. "I made $30 a day from 8 in the morning to 8 at night," he says. "I went to Checkers." 

Then he brings the narrative back to the present—he's not that kid anymore; he's a man with money and means. "Whatever I want to have, I can have without a doubt," he says. "I want Checkers."

The video was filmed over two days in Carol City. And while producers planned to shoot Ross only outside of his franchise, unplanned moments add to the story's spirit. At one point, Ross published an Instagram post offering free burgers to fans who wanted to meet him at Checkers, and about 200 people showed up. The cameras rolled as he shook hands and caught up with friendly faces.

"We don't think of it as an advertisement," Wakeman says. "We wanted to create a piece of content that captured his love for the brand." 

However cheesy the core idea is, that love is something you can feel—not just for Checkers but for what it represents. Toward the end of the video, Ross ruminates, "What made me come back and buy Checkers? I had a lot of reasons: Providing jobs. Investing back into the community. Staying in touch with where you're from. We can come back and say a piece of this is ours."

Checkers typically invests most of its $20 million marketing budget into TV. In contrast, the 3:45 documentary is being shared only on social media and Uproxx. And while Wakeman acknowledges that using a rapper's life story to promote hamburgers felt like a gamble, he feels Ross' authenticity resonates in a way previous Checkers content hasn't been able to.

"Food and value are our two big brand pillars, and I think they come through in the spot in a cool way," says Wakeman. "It wasn't a script. It was just Rick talking about what he loves."