Larry Fitzgerald Fulfills Promise to Deceased Mother in 180LA’s Tearjerker for University of Phoenix

By Erik Oster 

After debuting its first work for University of Phoenix in February, following winning creative duties in a review launched last September, 180LA launched a new campaign last month for the for-profit university with a 60-second anthem ad borrowing from the Maya Angelou poem “Still I Rise.” With football season here, the agency launched a follow-up effort starring Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald which aims straight for the heartstrings. 

In the spot, Fitzgerald reveals he sometimes still calls the house of his mother, who died in 2003 when Fitzgerald was still a freshman in college, to hear her voice on the answering machine. Fitzgerald made a promise to his mother before she passed away that no matter how successful he was as an athlete he would graduate from college. He finally fulfilled that promise this spring and calls to leave a message on the answering machine telling his mother about the accomplishment. Need a tissue?

For what it’s worth, 180LA told Creativity that Fitzgerald’s message to his mother was not rehearsed and was filmed in a single take.

The continuation of the “We Rise” campaign made its debut last Sunday during NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcast of the Cardinals’ home opener against the New England Patriots. A series of five videos running on social media round out the effort. Undoubtedly emotional, some may view the spot as uncomfortably emotionally manipulative, given concerns around the for-profit school’s recruitment and admission policies.