A dance-off may not seem like the most natural fit for people with sickle-cell disease. It’s a crushing diagnosis. Mainly impacting people of African descent, patients can feel forgotten and discouraged. And with painful vaso-occlusive crises, those with SCD are often dismissed and stigmatized as drug seekers.

Novartis, which markets Adakveo, wanted to find a way to help patients show the world who they really are. Its research led it straight to dance. It’s not only  emotionally expressive, but highly relevant to people with SCD, who see it as the opposite of being sick. And it’s healthy — dancing improves well-being.

The social-media campaign also acknowledges the sickle-cell community’s hope that someone will step up and recognize their pain, validate their disease and stand up for them. They want greater awareness of SCD and its impact.

So, through the campaign, the first branded pharma effort on TikTok, Adakveo gave them both the opportunity to express themselves and build a movement. Working with professional dancer/entertainer Stephen “tWitch” Boss, it invited users on TikTok, Facebook and Instagram to join in the Do U Dance Challenge. And by sharing and tagging others, it brought people with SCD out of the shadows.

Hundreds shared their dances with energy, creativity and style. Influencers and patients with SCD joined in to further showcase the true spirit of the sickle cell community. Media partnerships with iHeart Radio, BlackDoctor.org, and Urban One amplified the campaign’s reach.

Besides raising awareness for this painful, incurable disease, it let people know about Adakveo as a treatment option. On TikTok, it sparked nearly six million with #sicklecell, a threefold increase.