The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!


Finalist in Campaign by Diverse-Owned Businesses


Stamped by “1998,” this creative time capsule, creative directed by Joe Freshgoods, pays homage to an influential era while transporting you to the inner thoughts of the Chicago-based designer as he confronts his origins in tandem with his love of film and the arts. “1998” is inspired by the essence of the late ‘90s and cinematography and hip-hop of that period, combining elements of luxury, thoughtful design, and nostalgic references. The campaign and coinciding collection explore luxury through a cinematic lens, coupling storytelling and architecture with intentional and distinctive design for a visual experience on and off foot.


For this campaign, Joe Freshgoods desired to focus on iconic imagery from the late '90s, drawing inspiration from his childhood memories, including magazine campaigns, movies, and ads from that era that greatly influenced his creative perspective. During this period, he began to appreciate the small details such as lighting, materials, and film and understand how these elements harmonize to create a cohesive visual experience. This awareness significantly shaped his current approach to his creative work. "1998" sought to connect with streetwear enthusiasts and beyond through nostalgia, shared experiences, and culture while infusing elements of the modern cult classic film Belly, directed by Hype Williams.

The campaign began with a teaser photo of three male models with their backs facing the camera and a second photo of the trio shooting dice, providing a glimpse of the upcoming apparel and sneakers while concealing their faces. The first photo referenced the iconic June 1999 XXL magazine cover introducing supergroup Murder Inc., which included Ja Rule, Jay-Z, and DMX. The teaser photo sparked dialogue about the reference and anticipation of what would come next. The identity of the models was later unveiled during the launch phase, revealing rappers Smino and Femdot and music executive Modi Oyewole.

During the launch, a 70-second video spot was released showcasing striking visuals inspired by various scenes from Belly. Included was the scene "Rise Above All This Madness," in which rapper Nas is talking to a young boy outside on the neighborhood bench, and the famous scene "Tommy's Crib," in which the models shoot dice, play pool, and lounge in the luxury of the contrasting black and white home. The voiceover written by Joe Freshgoods and performed by Smino adapts a similar concept of "Rise Above All This Madness," but instead illustrates Joe Freshgoods present-day talking to his younger self about his career and life journey.

Following the video, a mock editorial was released, adapting the celebrity-on-celebrity interview style with Joe Freshgoods interviewing himself. The editorial doubled as a lookbook for the collection while giving consumers a deeper look into his creative process, inspiration, cultural influences, and future collaboration. The three sneaker colorways inspired by scenes and lighting in the film named "Intro," "Outro," and "Keisha Blue" were released via raffle on December 11th and the apparel collection on December 16th. The global release was hosted on New Balance's e-commerce site on December 22nd.

Following the release of the coinciding apparel and sneaker collection, a second mock editorial, "Under Blue Lights," was released. The editorial featured actress Taral Hicks who played the role of "Keisha" in Belly and inspired the colorway "Keisha Blue," and included a Q&A exploring her role in the film, its impact on Black culture and pop culture, and the significance of the year 1998 for her.

Through seeding efforts and in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop, rappers including Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Gunna, Jermaine Dupri, Cardi B., Latto, and more received the sneakers as an added attraction to the campaign.


"1998" achieved our intended results of creating dialogue and paying homage to the late 90s cinematography and hip hop through compelling storytelling, visuals, and high-demand sneakers and to display representation in sneakers and streetwear.

Across Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, the assets were well received and garnered significant engagement, with the video garnering over 700k views. Instagram's engagement outperformed all other platforms, with Twitter following behind it. Consumers applauded the compelling storytelling and the inclusion of actress Taral Hicks and her continuous impact.

All sneaker colorways allocated for the raffle and global release sold out, with the latter selling out in under an hour. Currently, the sneakers are popular on buy-and-sell sites, including StockX, with "Keisha Blue" listed for a resale value of $1300 (retail USD 220). Joe Freshgoods and the campaign were featured in Business of Fashion as a leading brand using innovative tech to combat sneaker bots and get products into the hands of the brand's dedicated community.

After Kendrick Lamar was photographed wearing "Keisha Blue," the demand for the Chicago-exclusive colorway increased, with consumers willing to travel from their home states to Illinois to purchase the sneakers in person at Joe Freshgood's retail and resource hub Every Now & Then.

Overall, this campaign conveyed the importance of representation in storytelling and connecting with consumers founded on intention, relatability, and authenticity. "1998" was an impactful and memorable campaign with a tangible product anchored on nostalgia, shared experiences, and culture.


Video for "1998"

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Joe Freshgoods, Inc.


Entry Credits