NZ AIDS Foundation rebrands via Special

The New Zealand AIDS Foundation has relaunched as Burnett Foundation Aotearoa, in new work delivered by Special and Special PR.

Burnett Foundation Aotearoa tasked Special with developing a new, more vibrant brand to better reflect the organisation’s mahi almost 40 years after it was founded.  

The new name pays tribute to pioneering AIDS activist Bruce Burnett, who was instrumental in orchestrating the early days of Aotearoa’s public response and co-founded the organisation before passing away in 1985.

In the four decades since his death, the HIV and AIDS landscape has changed drastically with new HIV infections reaching the lowest point in two decades, and the organisation needed to evolve to better suit the future needs of the communities it serves today.

For launch, Burnett Foundation Aotearoa collaborated with artist and LGBTIQ+ activist, Shannon Novak, to create a mural honouring the past, present and future of the organisation. Painted throughout the exterior and interior of the Burnett Centre (the testing and counselling centre for the organisation in Tāmaki Makaurau), the work weaves through the identity. This approach sets up the opportunity to partner with artists to create new works into the future.

The brand development and design included strategy, naming, visual identity, brand assets, and corporate comms narrative. The PR launch and influencer engagement was brought to life by the earned specialists at Special PR alongside the team at Burnett Foundation Aotearoa.

Heath Lowe, Special’s Executive Design Director and co-founder, says: “From the outset, it was important to pay tribute to past heroes and efforts, while celebrating how far the organisation has come. We naturally looked to the symbolism and iconography of activism and protest posters, as well as the New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt Project for inspiration. We wanted to reflect and honour the vibrancy and spirit of the community’s culture through bold artwork, language and attitude.”

The new identity of Burnett Foundation Aotearoa was designed to retain the credibility of a foundation while reflecting the understanding, supportive and welcoming nature of the diverse and colourful communities they serve.

Special PR worked in collaboration with Special and Burnett Foundation Aotearoa to create an earned PR campaign delivering mainstream media and consumer awareness about the rebrand.

Special PR’s Head of PR and Influence, Kelly Grindle, adds: “Our strategy with this launch was to start with the community, and spread the news outwards. We executed a teaser phase with more than 150 generous posts from community activists, advocates, and leaders, before rolling out a national PR campaign that told the story of Bruce through the eyes of his friends and historical archives.”

In the 48 hours leading up to the reveal of the new brand, Special PR orchestrated a nationwide tease campaign, posing the question “Have you heard what Bruce did?”. This was predominantly shared by community influencers and advocates including the likes of Kita Mean, Eli Matthewson, Quack Pihiri, Robbie Mason, Cam Mansel and Sharyn Casey, it also included generously donated media space from NZME, JCDecaux and LUMO.

“By focusing on the community to spread news, and the voices of Bruce’s friends and activists in our PR, we were able to humanise a rebrand story – achieving blanket coverage across the media scene in Aotearoa,” continues Kelly Grindle.

Joe Rich, CEO of Burnett Foundation Aotearoa, says: “Evolving a brand after almost 40 years is no mean feat, and we were impressed with the way that Special looked to our organisation’s roots and legacy, to set us up for the future. The result is something we are really proud of, and we’re excited to move forward as Burnett Foundation Aotearoa.”


Executive Design Director – Heath Lowe
Design Director – Richard Francis
Intermediate Designer – Maddeline Lissington
Head of PR and Influence – Kelly Grindle
Senior PR Director – Rebecca Lawson
PR Director – Sarah Prigg
Senior PR Manager – Duncan Killick 
PR Executive – Arabella Mitchell
Creative Director (copy) – Sarah Shepherd
Creative Director / Cultural lead – Arnya Karaitiana
Group Business Directors – Emma Vivian, Katie Hamilton
Senior Business Manager – Shalin Kothare
Group Strategy Director – Nick Salter
Strategist – Amy Willemse
Studio Manger – Gavin Le Claire
Studio Artwork – Scott Harley
Studio Artwork – Barry Cumming

Burnett Foundation Aotearoa
Joe Rich – Chief Executive Officer  
Mickey Power – Marketing, Communications and Fundraising Manager
Blaise Clotworthy – Marketing and Engagement Specialist 
Matthias Bucher – Designer
Ciarin Butler-Smith – Marketing Team Lead
Matt Bain – Communications Producer and Media Liaison
Jason Myers – Former Chief Executive Officer
Rodrigo Olin – Senior Services and Outreach Co-ordinator
Alex Anderson – Services and Outreach Manager
Sophearith Dareth – Marketing Co-ordinator
Hannah Watson-Frank – Digital Marketing Specialist
Russell Bradshaw – Fundraising Team Lead

Artist collaboration 
Shannon Novak

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