Saturday 7 October 2023

Unpacked: Rolling Rock's "Foul Ball" campaign


Following the banning of my old Instagram account by censors, a mate of mine suggested I upload some of the ads or TV/movie scenes I used to upload there to my blog. I think that's a great idea, so I'm going to experiment by not only uploading them here, but using the blog format to go into much greater detail with them.

For this first experimental post, I'm going to focus on the infamous viral "Foul Ball" campaign made for Rolling Rock beer back in 2007 which featured a TV commercial and a related online marketing skit.

TV Commercial

The commercial is set on a normal day at a baseball game; things quickly go wrong when a baseball ricochets off the foul pole after being hit and rebounds, smashing the pitcher in the nuts. In an absurd comical twist, this magic ball doesn't stop there and continues to hit players in the groin before firing off into the crowd indiscriminately getting guys in the balls. 

The ad ends with two guys sitting in the crowd wearing protective cups over their crotches sharing a Rolling Rock as the chaos continues around them. A rolling rock bottle is then shown off screen fizzing over after being struck by the magic baseball and the cheeky tagline is revealed - "Remember your cup". 

Above you can watch the full ad, below I've compiled a breakdown.

It's a normal game day for these baseball players...

The pitcher "Harmond" readies the ball for the hitter "Henderson"

Henderson's hit heads out towards the foul line, the players turn to follow it...

It ricochets off the foul pole (meaning it's still in play)

The pitcher's just turned to look at the foul pole, his feet spread in a wide stance

He doesn't even have time to register...

The ball's just travelling that fast...

It narrows in on the bulging front of his tight baseball pants...

Oooft... bro's gonna feel that. Bet he wishes he'd pitched a little softer

Everyone's so distracted by the pitcher getting nailed in the nuts they don't notice the ball ricochet again, this time off a case of Rolling Rock sitting by the dugout

The Third Baseman turns to hear the source of the metal "clang" as the ball ricochets of the cool box

And it flies straight into his nuts

Yep, he felt that one for sure, right in the sack 

And another bro goes down! (Poor shortstop)

Things get manic as it fires off into the crowd...

The shirtless fan getting a nice clear hit in this frame...

Even the team's mascot "Stripey" isn't safe...

Gotta feel for the poor college kid doing this for $10 an hour

Especially as he falls from a great height, probably making his ball paint the least of his worrries

Up in the announcer's box, the guys watch on in bemusement at the scenes unfolding below

But it doesn't last long when the ball ricochets from Stripey's nuts and go flying through the open door on the left-hand side of the shot hitting each of these dudes in their unprotected nuts

If you look super closely (beneath his elbow), you can see the ball bouncing off the wall and heading right for this unsuspecting guy's groin as he goes to sip his coffee

And he joins his fallen bud

Damn, that's gotta hurt!

Having missed all the action on field, these guys at the concession stand get taken totally by surprise

And things don't end well for them when the ball bounces through

This guy's on the phone probably chuckling to his bud about all these dudes getting pinned in the nuts

But unfortunately for him, the ball hits a nearby horse in the backside, causing it to kick its legs out in surprise

Sending the dude flying into a nearby fence....

A quick still of him grabbing his crotch as he falls confirms the worst - he got kicked right in the groin by that horse. I gotta say, I think we've found our dude who got it the worst of all, I mean that kick was so powerful it lifted him off the ground - imagine taking that force straight to the balls

While most of the others have started panicking, the Catcher hasn't forgotten that the game is still ongoing (it's only out if the designated hitter crossed the foul line with his hit, if it hits the foul pole the ball is still in play).

His eyes are glued to the ball as he chases after it...

Which unfortunately means he doesn't see this giant pole, and runs into it crotch first and to make matters worse it looks like his body protector falls just short of covering his most precious parts...

Now, that's gotta hurt both his balls and his ego. The only player who got racked out of his own stupidity rather than cause he got hit. 
The field is left in utter chaos as the fans start to flee

The players on the field still in excruciating pain as they writhe on the ground, hands still cupping their balls

The ad ends with these two spectators playing it smart with cups on as guys continue to get sacked off screen

The one on the right arrogantly spreads his legs, confident in the knowledge his nards are safe from the errant baseball (for now 😉)

Further thoughts on the commercial

As you might have guessed this ad didn't last too long on the air before being banned. In its statement opposing the ban, Rolling Rock said it was ridiculous to ban an ad merely for featuring "33 men being hit in the groin by a magic baseball". 

Despite being banned from the air, the ad went viral online in the early days of YouTube and social media and succeeded in raising the brand's name recognition among men aged 21-40. 

But hang on, Rolling Rock claims 33 dudes get racked - if you watch the ad back you can definitely only count 17. So who else gets hit beneath the belt?

Well, some of those questions might be answered by the accompanying online campaign. Around the time the ad was banned and started blowing up online, the marketing agency behind it released a second video online - the Rolling Rock "Foul Ball" Casting Tape. 

Casting Tape

Looking to build on the viral momentum of the commercial, this accompanying piece was released on early video sharing sites.

Watch it above or read on below for the screenshots

First we meet Matt, a young actor trying out for the commercial. Though he verbally says he's hoping for the part of first base, his audition must have went well because his casting tape has been upgraded to auditioning for the role of "Hero". Hero likely being one of the end two 'hero' characters who sit back with a Rolling Rock as the carnage unfolds

But while Matt stands around waiting for his audition to begin, suddenly an out-of-frame pitching machine comes to life

He lets out a miserable grunt as he gets taken by surprise; he leans over to exhale as he deals with the pain of taking a baseball to the nuts

But before he can even begin to recover another ball fires up at his groin

And another...

And another

He crumples over in agony as the casting agent remarks "oh wow, that's fantastic"

A shame after all that he didn't get the part 😏

Will meanwhile is trying out for Third Baseman, after verbally confirming he's over 25, the casting agent wastes no time in firing up the pitching machine

Will gets no notice...

And goes falling to the ground

His hands buried in his crotch

We don't see this actor getting hit

But it was clearly a direct hit as the would be "Policeman" falls to the ground

While the casting agent encourages his 'performance' with a running commentary "Deep pain, deep pain. On the floor, on the floor... that's great."

This guy trying out for first base coach doesn't last long

And it's not hard to see why

The designated hitter seems a little confused when asked not to assume usual batting stance

And is instead instructed to spread his legs nice and wide while lifting the bat directly over his head

Leaving him completely unprotected when the pitching machine whirrs to life 😏

And in tremendous pain seconds later...

This guy who tried out for the mascot is clearly confused by the audition

But before he gets a chance to leave...

He takes one right to the plums (I gotta say though, I'm glad they swapped out the mascot from a devil to a jaguar, something was infinitely more funny about "Stripeyyy! Nooo!!" than whatever this would've ended up being).

This guy is trying out for the spot of local Mayor. He tries to ask some questions about what they're looking for in his character, but they just tell him not to worry because it's not a speaking part 😉

Up comes the baseball 

and down goes the actor 😏
Love how you can tell the pain is coming to him in waves from his verbal reaction as he initially says "Oh my God" calmly, probably out of surprise at the hit but then a split second later a more panicked and forceful "Oh! MY GOD!" as the pain sinks in 

They do a good job getting this would-be Pitcher to mirror the confusion of the moment as he's encouraged to look over his shoulder after the ball ricochets off the foul pole

Meaning he's not looking when *THWACK*

And down he goes!

This guy trying out for 1st base doesn't last more than a few seconds

And screams out in pain, his mouth that classic 'o' shape as he takes a ball to the balls

This dude struts in ready to try out for Center Field

But before he can even open his mouth, bro gets thwacked in the sack

He lets out a deep, surprised grunt

And falls back into the wall, presumably before collapsing to the ground...

While the casting tape isn't as famous as the actual commercial, it definitely holds its ground as far as nut-crunching comedy is concerned. And you gotta feel bad for all these dudes knowing not one of them appears in the final commercial despite literally putting their balls on the line for the part.

It does help us out a bit though with figuring out some of the off-screen nutshots we don't see in the commercial.

Roles that appear in the TVC but not the casting tape
Short Stop x1
Spectators x3
Popcorn guy x1
Guys in the announcers box x3
Guys in line at the concession stand x3
Horse-kick dude x1
Buggy cart guy x1
Total - 13

Roles that appear in the casting tape but not the TVC
Centre Field x1
Policeman x1
First Baseman x1
First Base Coach x1
Mayor x1
Total - 5

Roles that appear in both
Hero (only 1 in casting tape, but 2 in the actual TVC)
Pitcher x1
Third Baseman x1
Designated Hitter x1
Catcher x1
Mascot x1
Total - 7 (in TVC)
Total shown hit - 4 (Designated Hitter and Heroes not shown hit in TVC despite being hit in casting tape)

So we've got our 17 guys who get hit, plus it's probably fair to say that we can add another 8 to that figure. All five of the roles who only appear in the casting tape can be assumed to have been hit offscreen, plus the 2 that do appear in the TVC without their hit being shown (the Designated Hitter and one of the Heroes). 

That still leaves us 8 short of the claimed 33 though. If we look at a standard set of baseball playing positions, there are 3 positions not shown or mentioned - Right Field, Left Field, and Second Baseman. Given that we see the field completely cleared except for writhing dudes on the ground, it's probably fair to assume that each of these three poor saps has taken a blow to the plums, probably wishing they'd chosen a less gonad-endangering sport as the excruciating pain makes its way up through their taught abs and begins to make them queasy in the stomach.

It's probably fair to add 2 others to this tally, with the 3rd base coach likely having gone down given he's absent from the field (and also given his opposite number at 1st has already taken a hit). We also know from the beginning of the commercial that there was a runner on the field at 1st base, his failure to make it home only has one explanation...

Now that still leaves us 4 guys short, which is the exact number of umpires there would be on the field. So I reckon that gives us a nice indication of all 33 dudes who get racked in the nards on-screen or off-screen in this commercial. 

The last question to ponder is, if only one of the two "Hero" characters get hit at the end (which we're assuming cause only one was showing in the casting tape). Which one should it be?

My personal preference would be for our dude on the right here. He's definitely the more arrogant of the two, the way he decides to spread his legs extra wide and thrust his crotch forward is just asking for the ball to fire into him tbh.

But of course, there's plenty of opportunity for our guy on the left. Unlike his bro, he's not got his cup covering him quite as well. In fact, if you look at the bottom of it, it's clearly overhanging his crotch a bit, leaving him wide open from the bottom. 

It may well be that juts after the screen cuts away, the baseball comes flying from behind shooting just over the cool box of beers and ricochets off of the plastic seat in front, bouncing back at just the right angle to fly under the guy on the left's poorly secured cup and inflicting on him just the kind of nut-crunching pain he'd been laughing at moments earlier. 

Perhaps though, neither of them escapes unharmed. While the guy on the right has fitted his cup a little better, it's still not perfect and he is still vulnerable to a blow from below. Perhaps one of the umpires made it out ok? Leaving enough nut shots to go round for our two "hero" buddies here to end up rolling around on the ground, clutching their nards as their Rolling Rock bottles cruelly roll away 😉

Whoever the full list of 33 guys are, I'm sure they'll all be spending quite some time icing off their balls after this. It'll be an especially humbling experience for all the fit and athletic baseball players, a harsh lesson that no matter how fast or strong they get, or how long they spend training and hitting the gym they'll never be totally invincible. That period stuck at home, forced to deal with the juxtaposition of their muscular arms, flat stomachs and broad shoulders contrasted with their shriveled and throbbing cocks and balls is bound to play with their psyche. After being forced to spend so long being unable to pleasure their wives and girlfriends, I'm sure none of the players on either of these teams will ever forget their cup in future.