When In Kentucky - In Conversation with Conner Needham




Matte Projects



What was the most important role of an Art Director on the New Balance S124 global campaign for Foot Locker?
The most important and exciting part of this campaign was being able to blend Jack Harlow's world with that of the New Balance 550—one where they collide and coexist naturally.

Jack is a visionary who takes a different approach to most celebrities as he remains deeply rooted in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, a place he is determined to uplift and bring along on his superstardom journey.

These elements guided us to the ‘Locals Only’ campaign. Louisville local love, brought to you by the timeless, classic 550.

As you mentioned, the campaign was shot in Louisville, Kentucky, the hometown of rapper and star of the campaign Jack Harlow. Were there any specific strategies or techniques used to bring out the best in Jack Harlow's representation in the campaign?
This whole campaign is a love letter to Louisville from Jack. Shooting at one of his favorite local diners, Twig And Leaf on Bardstown Road gave fans the opportunity to witness and get a sneak peek of the work firsthand.

Jack stars alongside his brother Clay [Harlow] and their crew, Otez [Dillard] and Josh [Mcbride]. This approach to talent allowed us to create a very relaxed atmosphere on set as their genuine connection is super apparent in real life and on camera.

New Balance has been a MATTE Projects client for many years now—can you elaborate on your sources of inspiration to make this campaign feel different from previous ones?
As we dove deeper into the creative treatment, Pat [Dierker] and I were really inspired by our favorite hip-hop music videos from the 1990’s and a lot of the visual queues in the work are drawn from those worlds without being too heavy handed or cliché.

The imagery in this campaign takes on a darker tone compared to New Balance's usual style. Our approach aligned well with Jack's vision of where he wanted to take the creative, New Balance embraced it and we were able to achieve something standalone from our previous campaigns.

Some campaigns are about being aspirational, others inspirational—do you find this one to be one that tethers both?
We aimed for a super naturalistic feel with this work, as if we were simply dropping in on Jack and his friends at a kickback. It was the criteria in which we honed in on as we assembled the team of creatives to bring the work to life. Ricky Alvarez's photographic style one hundred percent embraces this approach and made him the perfect fit to help us bring our vision for ‘Locals Only’ to life. One that was both aspirational and inspirational due to its effortless vibe. Anything that felt forced was quickly recognized, and we adjusted to maintain authenticity.

How were you able to navigate and overcome any challenges faced during the creative process?
Of course with the creative process and production timelines… things move fast. And, with that, hurdles appear and you just have to stay on your toes. But a unique thing about MATTE Projects and our team on New Balance is how collaborative we are with one another. I trust my team whole-heartedly; we are able to go to bat for one another whenever that time comes.

The campaign is shown at Foot Lockers world-wide including at the Times Square location. How much of the final output informs the conception of the campaign?
This is top of mind with the work we put forth: ‘How are these going to show up in store? Will these images look good next to each other? How does video integrate into the placements in store?’. These are the types of questions that guide the visuals in our work with New Balance because they will have so many eyeballs on them and they have to not only look pretty, but tell a succinct visual story across a global market.

Recent Articles


Redefining Expression: How Sportstyle is Shaping New Cultural Archetypes and Transforming Global Youth Identity


Generated Identity: An Interview with Digital Creative Willem Stapel


Introducing Matte Mini

Willy Chavarria Interview


A Word With Willy (Chavarria)