6th January 2023

NHS COVID-19 booster campaign for the Pakistani community: Listening to the people

We recently created a campaign to encourage Pakistani residents of Luton to get a COVID-19 booster. Targeting a hard-to-reach audience like the Pakistani community required careful planning, starting with research. We then created a number of creative concepts, but instead of subjectively choosing one to put out into the wild, we put the top two into testing using our partnership with Samantha Ford, Doctoral Researcher of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Birmingham.


Pakistani communities are one of the most likely ethnic groups to be COVID-19 vaccine-hesitant (NHS England and NHS Improvement - South East, 2021), and to be at fatal risk (Race Disparity Unit, Cabinet Office, 2021). The goal of Big Cat’s campaign for the NHS was to encourage Pakistani people to get a booster vaccine, targeting those living in Luton.

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Instinct in Action

Family and community are an important part of Pakistani culture. we created a campaign that aimed to motivate Pakistani people to get a vaccine as a means to keep their family and community safe but framed this message in different ways. Framing the same message in different ways can have a significantly different influence on our behaviour, depending on how the information has been presented. 

We created and tested two concepts: (1) ‘In our blood’ and (2) ‘Step up to the bat’.

  1. ‘In our blood’ combined Pakistani models with headlines ‘protecting our community is in our blood’ encompassed by architectural contours of a mosque that doubled up as a needle. The double meaning plays on a figurative reading that suggests protecting one’s community is a part of what it is to be Pakistani, and on a more literal reading that protecting one’s community is made possible by having the COVID-19 vaccine.
  2. ‘Step up to bat’ drew on the popular sport of cricket in the Pakistani community. The double meaning here is that the individual is responsible for scoring in a cricket match, and is responsible for protecting the community by getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Integrating familiar cultural symbols such as the mosque design and references to cricket activates the cocktail party effect, making the campaign more relevant to the target audience. Relating to physical artifacts of the Pakistani culture through language and imagery also constructs a degree of concreteness, which increases its motivational influence. 

In our campaign testing, we received 151 responses from people who identified as Pakistani.

Untitled Design (9)


We found that while both concepts proved motivational for Pakistani people to get a vaccine, the representation of real people and the use of bold, bright, and warm colours in the ‘In our blood’ campaign made all the difference. These elements harnessed the Von Restorff effect: the proven psychological theory that the more something stands out from the crowd the more likely it is to be seen. 

Participants pointed out some cultural inaccuracies and stereotypical assumptions in the ‘Step up to bat’ concept, such as the way of wearing a hijab and the stereotype that all Pakistani people like cricket. 

The equal representation of the Pakistani family (highlighting individual responsibility and agency in ‘In our blood’) was more relatable than a patriarchal view (backgrounding the mother and child in ‘Step up to bat’). ‘In our blood’ was the concept of choice.


To avoid confusing the ‘In our blood’ creative for vaccinations with blood donation, we made the call to action more prominent. We also included a search bar to point people in the right direction to book a vaccination which made the transfer from creative to action on the spot.

We removed the red filter on the ‘In our blood’ creatives to avoid obscuring their skin colour and get straight to the people on a personal level.

Our findings highlight that stereotypical assumptions can be caught by campaign testing, and can teach us important things about people in our community. 

We are really proud of this work, which was developed in collaboration with key figures from Pakistani communities across England. Listening to the Pakistani people resulted in something impactful, beautiful, distinctive and inclusive.

Thank you to our amazing client – the NHS – who recognised that representation in marketing matters.


NHS England and NHS Improvement - South East (2021) Vaccination: race and religion/belief. CS52427. Online: South East EDI Team. Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/south-east/wp-content/uploads/sites/45/2021/05/Vaccination-and-race-religion-and-belief-A4.pdf (Accessed: 7 December 2022).

Race Disparity Unit, Cabinet Office (2021) Third quarterly report on progress to address COVID-19 health inequalities. gov.uk. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/third-quarterly-report-on-progress-to-address-covid-19-health-inequalities/third-quarterly-report-on-progress-to-address-covid-19-health-inequalities (Accessed: 7 December 2022).

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