Tim Hortons Just Surprised Kenya’s Only Hockey Team With the Game of Their Lives

With no one to play against at home, they got the VIP treatment in Canada

'I can't hold back my tears.' Tim Hortons
Headshot of David Griner

Kenya may dominate the world when it comes to long-distance running, but ice hockey? That’s not exactly a national sport.

So when Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons learned about Kenya’s only hockey team, the Kenya Ice Lions, the brand decided to give 12 of the amateur players an unforgettable trip to the home of hockey.

Upon arriving in Canada, the players discovered several surprises waiting for them, including top-of-the-line gear, custom jerseys and a team to finally play against. But they also had a few unexpected visitors lace up and join their starting line:

Canadian agency Zulu Alpha Kilo created the video.

Just in case you’re not up to speed on your global hockey stars, Sidney Crosby is captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins and has been considered one of the best players in the world for more than a decade. The Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon, while younger and less of a household name than Crosby, is one of the league’s rising stars and brings a lot of spirit to the game.

Obviously, the Kenyan players don’t often get to play alongside such iconic players. In fact, they barely get to play with anyone.

Twice a week, they gather at the first ice rink in east and central Africa, at the Panari Sky Center Hotel in Kenyan capital Nairobi. There aren’t enough players to create a second team, much less a league, so the Ice Lions have never had an opponent until their trip to Canada on Tim Hortons’ dime.

“It is a dream to not only have the chance to play in Canada, but to play—for the first time—in full gear alongside two of the greatest players of the game,” says Benard Azegere, captain of the Kenya Ice Lions, in a statement about the event. “When we first started playing in Kenya, we didn’t even have full equipment, but now not only do we have that, we can say we’ve played a real game with some All-Star teammates.”Adweek has reached out to Tim Hortons for information on agencies involved with the effort, and we will update this story if we hear back.

"When we first started playing in Kenya, we didn't even have full equipment, but now not only do we have that, we can say we've played a real game with some All-Star teammates."
Benard Azegere, captain, Kenya Ice Lions

For Tim Hortons, the idea of surprising the Kenyan players was an extension of the brand’s (and its home country’s) deep connection to hockey.

“In Canada, and as a company, hockey is part of our DNA,” says Jorge Zaidan, head of marketing for Tim Hortons Canada. “We are so inspired by the story of the Lions. Despite having no other teams to play against, the players on the Kenya Ice Lions’ passion for the game is unwavering. Their shared passion and love of the game knows no borders.”

To continue building the legacy that the Ice Lions have started, Tim Hortons also made a donation to Kenya’s Youth Hockey League in hopes of helping ensure Kenya’s first ice hockey team isn’t its last.


Title: The Away Game
Client: Tim Hortons

Agency: Zulu Alpha Kilo
Chief Creative Officer: Zak Mroueh
Executive Creative Director: Gerald Kugler & Rodger Eyre
Associate Creative Director: Michael Siegers
Writer: Jonah Flynn
Agency Producer: Revital Grunberg (Jennifer Gillespie, Kevin Corvetti)
Group Account Director: Hilary Roberts
Account Director: Mike Johnson
Account Supervisor: Kayla MacDonald
Strategic Planner: Tim Hopkins
Client (Company): Tim Hortons
Clients: Ricardo Azevedo, Jorge Zaidan, Jana Goodbaum, Paloma Azulay, Jordan Mascarenhas, Kevin Albert, Jane Almeida, Chris Wakefield,
Production House: Artifact
Director: David Grabias
Production House Producer: Bryce Brentlinger, Anne Edgar

Video Post Facility / Editing Company: Zulubot
Editor: Jay Baker
Assistant Editor: Jessie Posthumus
Post Production: Alter Ego
Compositor / Online / Senior VFX Artist: David Whiteson
Colourist/Transfer: Eric Whipp
Post Producers: Julie Neff, Hilda Pereira

Audio Post Facility/Music House: Eggplant Music & Sound
Audio Director: Adam Damelin
Music Composers: Adam Damelin / Iain Gardner
Producer: Nicola Treadgold
Engineer: Nathan Handy

Commercial Ran In The Following Markets: Canada

Media Agency: UM
Media Agency Planners: Scott Dane, Alana Paterson, Ben Seaton, Nicole Matalik

PR Agency: North Strategic
PR Agency Planners: Amy Shanfield, Sarah McConnell

PR Agency: Citizen PR
PR Agency Planners: Angie Lamana, Sean Citrigno, Ciara O’Riordan

Marketing Consultant: Rob Forbes

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@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."