The Royal Navy is focusing on the complexities of cultural identity in the UK with its latest TV recruitment campaign, which features a Sikh lieutenant.

The ad by Engine Creative, called “Raj’s story”, follows the life journey of Lt Raj, a serving Naval officer in the Submariner service. Raj explores how difficult it can be to understand your own identity growing up as an ethnic minority in the UK, stuck between cultures.

As a runner-up in the Channel 4 diversity competition 2020, which focused on the authentic portrayal of UK BAME cultures, the spot was awarded £250,000 of free advertising airtime.

The film shows Lt Raj tying his turban before a parade and reflecting on his childhood. It tells the story of his schooldays, how as a young man he drifted away from his Sikh culture and then without approval from his family, joined the Royal Navy. In the voiceover, Raj says that the sense of belonging he found in the Royal Navy helped him to rediscover pride in where he came from and reclaim his Sikh identity.

It offers a subtle twist on the ongoing “Made in the Royal Navy” campaign, while continuing to show how the Royal Navy has helped individual recruits “become the best version of themselves”.

The art director for the campaign was Hugo Isaacs and the copywriter was Chris Da Roza. The film was directed by Sasha Nathwani (also known as Sashinski) through Familia.

Paul Colley, head of marketing, recruitment and attraction at the Royal Navy, said: “This film came about through the opportunity that C4 presented with their Diversity in Advertising award. The £250,000 of free air time allowed the Royal Navy to provide a different and indeed unique insight into life in the Royal Navy through the eyes of serving Lt Raj. His story is a reflection of diversity in its truest sense and the life you can lead in the Royal Navy.”

The 60-second film runs for two weeks from 6 September on C4 and All 4. Media planning is by Wavemaker and media buying by Manning Gottlieb OMD.

Major Daljinder Virdee, chairman of The Defence Sikh Network, added: “Raj’s story showcases what many young Sikhs face growing up. The Sikh identity is distinctive and has a long and proud tradition. Like Raj, the Armed Forces helped me discover more about my Sikh heritage and, ultimately, myself. The Defence Sikh Network is grateful to have been involved in guiding this project and to have for the first time a Sikh character at the heart of an Armed Forces ad.”

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