How one Atlanta creative shop is trying to win over vaccine skeptics

Muscular man in gym lifting weights and wearing a pro-vaccine shirt that reads "freedom jabber"
The campaign includes T-shirts leaning into patriotic imagery.

Fitzco is leaning into right-wing imagery in the Delta Variant Force campaign.

When people see a graphic featuring a skull-and-crossbones-like illustration sitting atop the words “delta” and “force,” they might associate it with guns or the military before a COVID-19 variant and vaccines. 

That was the thinking behind a campaign aimed at encouraging right-wing, gun-owning individuals to get vaccinated. 

Fitzco, an Atlanta-based independent creative and media agency, developed the Delta Variant Force pro-COVID vaccination brand because Republican and Republican-leaning independents make up two-thirds of the people who say they would “definitely not” get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey published in June. 

“There was so much political divisiveness surrounding COVID, it kind of felt like America had lost sight that we were fighting the same enemy,” said Ryan Boblett, Fitzco SVP and head of creative. “When we all get behind and fight something, we usually come out on top.”

In short, the creatives wanted to use “the power of patriotism to remind people that being pro-America doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be anti-vaxx,” said Boblett. 

To reach the unvaccinated patriots, Fitzco, working pro bono, launched a lifestyle brand, Delta Variant Force, that offers T-shirts, hats and bumper stickers, among other products. Funds raised by the campaign will be donated to a CDC Foundation initiative aimed at stopping the virus.  

In creating the brand, Boblett went down a “really weird rabbit hole” of reviewing lifestyle brands that created products for his intended audience, he said. The companies included Zero Foxtrot, a clothing brand that features a skull in its logo, and Grunt Style, a which features crossed rifles in its design. 

“We took a lot of inspiration from the swag and attitudes of these brands, and I wanted to make shirts that were well designed, that looked like something you would proudly wear,” said Boblett, who has worked on Fulton County, Georgia, COVID campaigns aimed at encouraging masking, social distancing and vaccination.

The Fitzco team decided to call the brand Delta Variant Force because it brings the military to mind, Boblett said. They also decided to play on the skull and crossbones symbol. Where a person would normally find bones — or rifles — they instead see a syringe. 

“We wanted it to feel like getting vaccinated was a badass thing for America, a badge you wear and something you are proud of,” Boblett said.

The site features a banner that reads, “No one waltzes into this country and gets away with it. Not terrorists. And sure as hell not viruses.”

One shirt has an American flag and states, “AMERICA WE DON’T START PANDEMICS WE FINISH THEM.”

Another states, “SHIT YEAH I GOT THE VACCINE. I AIN’T DONE PISSING LIBERALS OFF YET.”

The initiative has sold hundreds of dollars of gear, Boblett said. 

Fitzco is also working with Urban Legend, a marketing and PR firm, to find “alt-right, pro-vaccine influencers.” 

In addition to Fitzco staff’s donated time, the company built the site and budgeted $5,000 for the influencer program. They have established Delta Variant Force handles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

No matter how creative Delta Variant Force’s marketing efforts are, the vaccines have now been widely available in the U.S. for more than eight months. Will appealing to the unvaccinated population’s patriotism make a difference?

“I am an eternal optimist and always going to keep finding a new way to possibly say the same thing. I think that is what this is essentially doing,” said Boblett. “That’s really what marketing is. If it’s not working, tweak it until it does.”

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