As freshman Tim Gruber opened his acceptance letter to the University of Richmond in December, he never imagined that he would share that moment with the nation during the London Olympics.
The video of Gruber, 18, tearing open the letter, leaping in the air and screaming “boo-yah” first appeared on YouTube after his father, Chris Gruber, who served as the director of admissions at Richmond from 1985 to 2005, secretly recorded his celebration, he said.
“It was my college counselor’s idea to put it on YouTube,” Gruber said. “He was like, ‘Oh, put it up online. It’s a cool video, and then I can see it and maybe some other colleagues would like to see it as well.’ I just thought, ‘Ok, throw it up on YouTube, no big deal.’”
The video would receive more than 20,000 views on YouTube and attention from a national advertising agency. Target representatives approached him in March about using the clip in Target’s “Acceptance” commercial, which first aired during the broadcast of the summer Olympic games, Gruber said.
Gruber applied early decision to Richmond after visiting the campus and feeling at home, he said. Gruber said he had also been drawn to the university by the opportunity to run for the cross country and track teams and by his interest in history and the Jepson School of Leadership Studies.
Around the anticipated date, Gruber eagerly checked his mailbox each day for a letter from the Richmond admissions office. On Dec. 12, he picked up his little sister, Greta, from school and saw the postal service car on his way home.
“I knew they [the postal service] had come by the house,” Gruber said. “I was pretty excited and had a feeling that something was going to be there.”
His parents watched from the window as Greta got out of the car first to check the mailbox. At the last minute, Chris, who is now the vice president and dean of admission and financial aid at Davidson College, decided to grab his camera to capture the moment to share with Tim’s oldest sister, who was away at college, he wrote in an email.
“My wife knew the mail had come and that the fat envelope from Richmond had arrived,” Chris said. “She called me at my office, sharing the information, yet left the mail there for Tim to find. My wife and I struggled with what we should be doing as he found the letter–we can’t be outside, and he would wonder what I was doing home.”
Later that night, his father called him downstairs and showed him the video on his laptop, Tim said.
“I’m watching it, and I was like, ‘This looks really familiar,’” Tim said. “It was actually kind of surreal looking at it, and I didn’t realize at first that it was me since it was four or five hours later.”
The popularity of the YouTube video, titled “Watching your son get his college acceptance letter,” started to increase after Tim’s college counselor shared it with a local news agency. Several local newspapers, television stations and major newspapers, including the Washington Post, reported on the story for about a month afterward, Chris said.
“As to Target, I was floored when I was contacted by a national advertising agency,” Chris said. “The ad agency offered no promises on whether it would make the final version, but wanted to have permission for its use. The rest is history, and when we saw the clip about two days before running on the opening night of the Olympics, we were pleased.”
The “Acceptance” commercial features a compilation of home videos showing the joy of students receiving their college acceptance letters. It ends with text stating, “Every kid deserves to have this moment. Target is on track to give $1 billion to K-12 education by 2015.”
Chris said, “Our entire family had our emails, phones and Facebook accounts light up when the ad first aired. I was traveling on an overseas flight during the Olympics, and the plane had individual entertainment consoles at each seat that allowed us to watch the Olympics (NBC) as one option. Sure enough, the ad came onto my screen and probably 95 percent of all of the other screens on the plane. Undoubtedly, I had a smile for the remainder of that flight, but refrained from sharing ‘those are my kids.”
Tim did not comment on the subject of possible payment for the use of his video in the commercial, saying that he wished to keep that information confidential.
“My experience at Richmond so far has been everything that I hoped for and more,” Tim said. “Coming from a very small high school, I have met a lot of interesting and unique people.”
Only one student in his class has asked him about his appearance in the Target commercial since he arrived on campus, Tim said.
“No one really knows, which I think is kind of nice,” Tim said. “I don’t want to be known as the Target kid. In my four years here, I’d simply rather be known as a good person.”
Contact staff writer Erin Moyer at email@example.com