When Tim Hortons Canada decided to support Kenya’s only ice hockey team and give them the experience of a lifetime, their agency, Zulu Alpha Kilo, turned to long-time collaborators David Grabias and Artifact Nonfiction to tell the story.
The Nairobi-based “Ice Lions” play with makeshift gear on the sole skating rink in all of East Africa. They learned the sport by watching videos on YouTube. Inspired by the team’s incredible passion for the game, Tim Horton’s decided to help the team and flew 12 players to Toronto so they could play their first “real game” against an opponent besides themselves. For many players, it was their first time on a plane, let alone outside of Kenya. The Ice Lions were outfitted in brand new gear and personalized jerseys, and matched up with a local Canadian team in a regulation-sized hockey arena. As the Kenyans were about to take the ice, they were brought to tears as NHL superstars Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon showed up in the locker room to join the their line-up.
The resulting 3-minute documentary, which tells the Ice Lions’ unforgettable story, rose above the typical “surprise and delight” activation video audiences have grown familiar with, and went viral in Canada, the United States and around the world. Then, due to the tremendous response from news outlets and fans on social media, Tim Hortons partnered with Sportsnet to broadcast a longer 20-minute version of the film after a Pittsburgh Penguins vs the Washington Capitals game.