Tim Hortons yanks Enbridge ads, sparks Alberta backlash

Facing pressure from a customer petition, Tim Hortons has put an end to the pipeline company's ad campaign on the coffee chain's in-store screens.

Coffee chain's decision sparks a boycott in oil-friendly Alberta

Tim Hortons caught in boycott dilemma

8 years ago
Duration 1:45
Damned when it runs Enbridge ads in their stores, damned in Alberta when it removes them

Canadian coffee chain giant Tim Hortons seems to be much more comfortable serving double-doubles than navigating the tricky world of pipeline politics. 

Facing pressure from some anti-pipeline customers, Tim Hortons has announced it will no longer be running advertisements for Enbridge.

The spots had been airing for close to three weeks on screens at more than 1,500 Tim Hortons locations between British Columbia and Ontario on Tims TV.

An online petition from a group called SumOfUs urged Tim Hortons to yank the ads, accusing the company of "shilling" for the oilsands shipper.

Tim Hortons responded to several Twitter users by saying it values the feedback and the ads will no longer be airing on Tims TV. The campaign was supposed to run for another week.

The SumOfUs group claimed victory after the ads were pulled.

"Enbridge was using the trusted brand of Tim Hortons to sell a skeptical public on a project," said Emma Pullman, a campaigner with SumOfUs in Vancouver. "Enbridge is going to have to do more than glossy ads to get social licence to build this project."

Enbridge downplayed the abrupt end to its ad campaign

"We enjoyed working with Tims and respect its decision," said Enbridge spokesman Graham White in a statement. 

Alberta backlash

The move by Tim Hortons is not going over well in oil-friendly Alberta. Customers are pledging their own boycott. Politicians, including Defence Minister Jason Kenney, took to Twitter to voice their support for Enbridge.

"​I'm proud to represent thousands of constituents who work for Enbridge & other CDN energy companies," wrote Kenney, who represents the riding of Calgary Southeast.

Marketing experts question whether Tim Hortons over-reacted to the online petition.

"Enbridge, of course, is not just pipelines and oilsands; they are a whole range of products including heating people's homes," said Alan Middleton of York University. "Tims should have thought about that." 

Tim Hortons did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Enbridge's $7.9-billion Northern Gateway pipeline, which would ship oilsands bitumen from Alberta to the west coast, is a controversial project.

While approved by the federal government, the pipeline must clear several hurdles:​

  • Meet 209 conditions; fewer than 30 have been fully completed.
  • Bring aboriginal communities onside; 26 of 45 have signed up.
  • Deal with First Nations court challenges.
  • Secure continued commercial support.
  • Satisfy British Columbia's conditions.

With files from The Canadian Press