I was sure it was a parody. A news release touting Sweet Ballz, a Dallas-based company specializing in marble-sized confections read like a Saturday Night Live sketch. Co-founders of the company had been making cake balls for friends and family for years and had recently found a way to manufacture them on a larger scale. Now Sweet Ballz were available at 7-Eleven's everywhere, for $1.99 to $2.99, depending on your location.
If that sounds innocuous, the release marked the beginning of testicular cancer awareness month, which is conveniently this June. Every Sweet Ballz purchase would help save testicles, the release read, concluding with a reminder to check your own family jewels every month.
It's not a joke. James McDonald started the company earlier this year after whipping up a batch of cake balls for his friends over a game of Pictionary. His balls were a hit, McDonald found a partner and a manufacturer, and now they're available in more than 4,000 locations across the country.
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While trying to conduct an interview with a modicum of professionalism, I asked McDonald about the innuendo. Just saying "balls" out-loud causes adolescent boys to snort -- had he really picked a branding mechanism he could back with a straight face? "We have a very fun name," he said, without as much as a snicker. "We're not being perverted or trying to cross the line," he added. "Everyone can do that on their own."
It's hard not to.
Minutes later, after a quick jaunt to the 7-Eleven that's right across the street from the Observer's office, McDonald's balls were in mouths of half the Observer staff. They are dense, fudgy orbs covered in frosting that evokes a Hostess snack cake, and about as good. Boxes of four of McDonald's balls come in cookies and cream, red velvet and chocolate flavor and are located at the front counter of 7-Elevens everywhere.
If you don't see them at the front counter of your local convenience store, try the sweets section where hand pies and individual cakes wait to poison you. Product placement at retail outlets can be a real ball-buster.