Birmingham City Council – emboldened to develop a place narrative

‘Be Bold, Be Birmingham’ was the memorable strapline that Birmingham City Council developed to promote its ‘2022 Commonwealth Games Proud Host City’ narrative. This case study explores how the council worked with this theme to promote civic pride and engage with all communities across the city.

Communications support


‘Be Bold, Be Birmingham’ was the memorable strapline that Birmingham City Council developed to promote the ‘2022 Commonwealth Games Proud Host City’ narrative. Birmingham City Council wanted to build on the campaign’s foundations to explain the narrative beyond the Commonwealth Games. Important objectives were to build civic pride and engage with all communities across the city.

To do this, the council’s communications team developed a place narrative, based on research, and created content and activities to encourage residents, businesses, colleagues and councillors to embrace this ‘bold’ state of mind as part of a clear sense of direction for the city.


Extensive research conducted with focus groups within the community (ahead of the Commonwealth Games 2022), as well as internal council data from staff surveys, staff focus groups and research to inform Birmingham City Council’s delivery plan all supported the creation of ‘Be Bold, Be Birmingham.’

Insights from those who contributed to the research (internal and external to the council), showed that there was strong support for the ‘Be Bold’ ethos to celebrate and recognise Birmingham’s strengths, such as cultural diversity and innovation. There was a shared belief that Birmingham had ‘hidden in the shadows’ and, as a second city, it had been overlooked for London and Manchester. Residents are proud of their city but being showy about their achievements and ambitions is not a characteristic of Birmingham.

As Adrian Chiles put it, in an article in the Times just before the beginning of the Commonwealth Games in July 2022:

Birmingham’s brilliant – we’d just rather not show off.

The challenge was to create a place narrative that was authentic to the city that could be embraced and shared by its residents.


Creating a brand personality to reflect the characteristics of Birmingham, its residents, and businesses, was an important part of the narrative. Under a heading of ‘who we are’ the following characteristics came shining through in the research findings:

  • positive
  • informative
  • personable
  • trustworthy and honest
  • all-inclusive.

The brand values, distilled from this list of attributes, were that communications would:

  • place community at their heart
  • be bold
  • champion equality and diversity.

Overall, the council’s objective was to “excite and engage the community – raising civic pride and excitement for 2022 and beyond.”

The brand that was created (using bright colours, with clear lines and a sense of fun) reflected the brand values. It was used throughout the city and customised to different areas of Birmingham to encourage engagement from local people. Social media was used to ask residents: ‘What makes you bold?’

There were also campaigns entitled ‘I am proud because’ and ‘Be your personal best.’ These campaigns were designed to celebrate what people love most about their city showing the ethnic diversity and different neighbourhoods of Birmingham as well as highlight the achievements of residents in a city of ‘personal bests.’


Creating and embedding this bold narrative has had an impact in Birmingham and beyond, as shown by the following statistics: 

  • 65 per cent of Birmingham city’s population had heard or seen the ‘Be Bold, Be Birmingham’ campaign
  • 87 per cent of the city’s residents felt an increase in civic pride after the Commonwealth Games
  • social media posts, containing ‘Be Bold, Be Birmingham’ content, were shared more than 1,700 times
  • campaign content received more than 1.9 million social media impressions
  • Birmingham City has the biggest council TikTok channel in the UK with 27,900 followers
  • the hashtag #Beboldbebham had achieved a reach of 3.9 million at the time of writing
  • there has been a 1.2 per cent engagement rate in the narrative and campaign.

Why it worked and how it is being sustained

The council’s communications team could have created and embedded a successful place narrative without the Commonwealth Games but the event gave the team focus for the ‘Proud host city’ themes.

Alison Roberts, Head of Communications, said: “The Games helped to propel ‘Be Bold, Be Birmingham’ into the spotlight. We would have still been successful but perhaps not as impactful across the wider region.”

Blanketing the city (not just the city centre) with brightly coloured campaign artwork is one of reasons that, the figures show, so many residents (65 per cent) said they had seen the campaign. It captured people’s attention and drove them to find out more online.

Cost of living pressures, which are currently affecting communities nationwide, have led the communications team to draw back the campaign slightly and think carefully about the use of the branding and tone of voice. Having said that, the branding will still be part of cultural and sporting events in the city throughout this year and beyond.

Finally, in this section, the narrative themes are integrated into the council’s corporate plan, so all campaigns and communications sit within ‘Be Bold, Be Birmingham’ and the council’s priorities between now and 2026. 

Lessons learned

The council and its communications team successfully used the Commonwealth Games as a catalyst for ‘Be Bold, Be Birmingham.’ They believe they could have done more to continue the plan after the Games.

Those leading the campaign and embedding the narrative also felt that, in hindsight, they would have done more to integrate with grassroots community groups to promote ‘Be Bold, Be Birmingham.’

They would have also created a clear ‘call to action’ from the beginning of the campaign and set out what it was they wanted people to do after seeing the ‘Be Bold, Be Birmingham’ content and brand.

Further information

For more information, please contact Alison Roberts, Head of Communications at Birmingham City Council at [email protected]