The Duality of Kendrick Lamar by Jonathan Mannion for Reebok
One of the most tried and true marketing techniques for any brand is the celebrity endorsement, but recently brands have been working with their celebrities in more collaborative ways. Commodities companies, like sneaker company Reebok, can involve their celebrities in a richer way, using heir creative natures to create projects that bridge the gap between the artist’s message and the brand’s capabilities. A few years ago Reebok invited Kendrick Lamar to join them as a brand ambassador that quickly turned into a collaborative relationship, something that Jonathan Mannion not only thinks is a perfect fit, but also made him feel great about photographing the latest campaign for the creative pairing. “The statements he’s making, if you look at the Grammy performance, what he’s done with the album, musicians that he chooses to work with, there’s no disconnect of his messaging as it relates to everything that he’s associating with even if it is involving another brand,” explains Jonathan. “I feel something for the brand and then I see them trying to work with different people and make the right choices, he is the absolute right choice as an artist, as the artist sitting in the throne right now.”
Lamar’s work with Reebok transcends the typical aesthetic choices that celebrities usually bring to their collaborations and instead focuses on a message. The first release focused on trying to create common ground in gang scarred Compton. This time, Jonathan and Reebok wanted to highlight the duality of Lamar’s nature and bring that straight into the visuals. “It’s the calm when you’re creating and you’re in your zone and you’re thinking problems through and that focus, that internal focus,” says Jonathan. “And then your outward persona that you give to the world is this animated, huge, powerful and concentrated message that gets delivered. And so visually we needed to separate those two things. And so the extremes that he took it to within those two categories still within what he was comfortable with, but pushed him right to the edge, and then covered everything else in between.” The imagery brings that almost split personality to the front, while highlighting some very clean shoes.
When it came to getting the photographs, it was easy. Jonathan and Lamar have worked together before so they had something of a shorthand between them. But not only that, Jonathan found a very willing participant in the rapper. “He really listened, he really paid attention, he really responded, and he gave his all,” says Jonathan. For just a few moments, Kendrick Lamar trusted Jonathan with his vision, giving Jonathan the responsibility of creating imagery that would speak for him and his message. The shoes are just a part of what Lamar is doing with his body of work, and now Jonathan in an inexorable part of it.