Longoria's Bare-Hand Catch Is Probably a Stunt for Gillette: Here's Why It Worked

Last Updated May 17, 2011 11:00 AM EDT

A video of Tampa Bay Ray third baseman Evan Longoria making an amazing barehanded catch to save a sports reporter from having her brains knocked out by an errant line drive is almost certainly fake, even though Longoria sponsor Gillette says it isn't.

Nonetheless, "Evan Longoria's Crazy Bare Hand Catch" illustrates exactly what type of branded videos go viral, and why they take off so quickly. The Longoria film was published on YouTube May 6 and has already received 1.2 million views -- other companies can learn from its instant success:


There are some obvious giveaways in the video:
  • If it was a real catch, why is Gillette even commenting on it? Gillette doesn't actually deny that the video is fake -- its quote is, "Evan Longoria is a Golden Glove third baseman and this catch speaks for itself."
  • The YouTube account belongs to "MrSprts12." That account has only one video posted -- this one -- and links only to Gillette-sponsored "favorite" videos.
  • Several Gillette logos are visible in the background of the video.
  • The sports reporter has no name. The screen caption gives no channel or show name. And a Google News search reveals no TV station or show claiming the footage as its own -- which seems odd, given how much publicity it's attracted.
  • Longoria makes the catch even though he has his back to the batter, a near-impossibility.
  • The reporter doesn't duck or flinch.
That hasn't stopped people speculating, though. The real/fake guessing game is part of the video's charm, and one of four crucial ingredients for creating viral video hits:
  1. It's safe for work -- and thus can be forwarded without embarrassment in email, Twitter and Facebook conversations.
  2. It delivers a special effect that cannot be seen elsewhere which leaves the audience asking, How did they did that?
  3. It "feels" real -- on YouTube, amateur videos are more interesting than professional videos or regular TV programming. Although the Longoria video is apparently "professional," it's presented as if it were an outtake.
  4. There is no hard sell. The video is interesting because it's interesting, not because Gillette insists that this is an interesting video.
There is a long(ish) and glorious history of fake "amazing" moments in sport that just happened to have occurred only when an advertiser's camera crew was around. They include :

The Roger Federer trick shot, also for Gillette:

The Wayne Rooney soda can juggling act, for Coca-Cola:

Ronaldhino's crossbar shots, for Nike:

And David Beckham's trash can goals, for Diet Pepsi:

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