The Super Bowl is pretty much a national holiday for Americans- everyone watches it. And for people who don’t care about football, it’s all about the commercials! Here’s a look at the best Super Bowl commercials of all time!
Coca-Cola’s “Mean Joe Green” (1979)
“Hey Kid, Catch!” was the infamous line from this commercial. The soda company’s “Mean Joe Green” commercial became one of the top ten television commercials of all time, according to TV Guide, and in 1979 the commercial won a Clio Award for one of the best television commercials. Greene recalls that when making the commercial, it took about three days to film because of Greene’s tendency to belch from having to drink so much Coke!
So, on to the Super Bowl commercial. Hall of Famer, Burly defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene (who got his nickname while playing football at North Texas State University) limps towards the locker room and a kid stops him and offers him his Coke. The meanest man in football turns into silly putty. He takes the Coke and in return offers the kid his jersey. The commercial became an instant classic!
Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” (1984)
The iconic Wendy’s Super Bowl commercial brought a new phrase into our national vocabulary: “Where’s the beef?” Even today, you can still catch people using it, possibly when they receive an unsatisfactory dish or a tiny portion. Remarkably, the ad is as funny now as it was 20 years ago. Who wouldn’t like watching little old ladies talk about beef and buns?
The “Where’s the Beef” campaign came out of a strategy to compare Wendy’s to its competitors like Burger King and McDonald’s. While the Whopper and the Big Mac would use larger buns for their sandwiches, Wendy’s capitalized on the fact that their modest single-patty burgers used a thicker, meatier patty to stand out.
Apple: “Introducing Macintosh” (1984)
Apple released an ironic and unforgettable 1984 Super Bowl commercial and this Apple ad, in particular, changed the way that Super Bowl commercials were made. It was a one-minute mini-movie and promised that Apple’s new Macintosh would put an end to conformity and spark innovation and individuality. A jogger (representing Apple) knocks down Big Brother (IBM) with a sledgehammer.
Titled “1984,” a lot actually went into the production of this commercial. Directed by Ridley Scott, “1984” was produced by Fairbanks films. David Graham was “Big Brother” and the runner was played by English athlete Anya Major. Its Super Bowl premiere was the second and only time it was aired nationally. It was first premiered on only ten local outlets in 1983.
McDonald’s: The H-O-R-S-E Showdown (1993)
Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, two of the Greatest NBA players of all-time, play a game of H-O-R-S-E for the privilege of chowing down on a Big Mac and fries. Who wouldn’t love watching these two icons battle over a big Mac and some friendly competition? The commercial itself is almost as awesome as what Michael Jordan is wearing.
When Michael Jordan shows up to basketball practice with a bag of McDonald’s, Larry Bird challenges him for it. Although this commercial featured basketball stars, it was till aired during the Super Bowl, but that made the commercial an instant success. The commercial was recreated for Super Bowl XLIV in 2010 with current NBA stars LeBron James and Dwight Howard.
Budweiser: Frogs (1995)
Budweiser is a mainstay during the Super Bowl. The company usually produces very humorous ads using dogs and horses, but in 1995, it was different. They brought the frogs out! This ad even managed to bring a little sex appeal to the swamp. Who would have thought that was possible? Leave it to Budweiser.
The commercial was directed by Gore Verbinski, the same mastermind behind the first three moves of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The frogs actually have names: Bud, Weis, and Er. The commercial shows the frogs croaking randomly for a few seconds before they start croaking in unison until it sounds like “Budweiser.” The commercial became so successful that Budweiser decided to keep playing off this original commercial by adding more elements, like more animals and people.
Pepsi’s “Your Cheatin’ Heart” (1996)
Would you choose Coke or Pepsi? In this iconic Super Bowl ad, a Coca-Cola delivery man thought no one was watching when he grabbed a nice cold Pepsi out of the fridge at one of the stores he delivered to. But the man’s moment of treason was caught on tape and played before the world leaving him with a far bigger mess to clean up. He slinks away which adds to the fun.
Set to the tune of Hank Williams’s “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” this Pepsi commercial became a huge success, achieving an Ad Meter rating of 9.42. Pepsi decided to do the commercial again in 2012, revamping it to sell their newer drink, Pepsi Max, and using comedian Beth Littleford as a doting cashier.
Tabasco: Mosquito (1998)
The Tabasco sauce brand makes a type of hot sauce exclusively from tabasco peppers. The Tabasco Super Bowl commercial makes this list because it was so simple and powerful, it really stuck it to the whole audience. It contained no music, no dialogue, and only two characters; two mosquitoes to stick it to ‘em. This commercial poses the question, what happens when a mosquito takes blood from a guy who likes a little spice on his pizza? These pesky little creatures may have finally met their match.
The mosquitos that take a drink from the man’s leg fly away and explode. The simple commercial was perfect for indicating that Tabasco hot sauce was some of the hottest sauce around. The clever commercial places fourth in USA Today’s annual Ad Meter popularity contest, according to a report by Ad Age.
Doritos: 3D Doritos (1998)
Doritos did it again with their Super Bowl commercial in 1998. Two guys sit in a laundromat trying the new 3D Doritos while they try to get the attention of a sexy lady by using trick shots to consume the chips. Needless to say, they look like fools doing it. She shows them up and the two guys are impressed thus making her point.
The commercial starred former Miss USA, Ali Landry, who became an overnight sensation after the premiere of this Doritos commercial. She wasn’t aware that Super Bowl commercials were a big deal, so when she was at a Super Bowl party and her commercial aired, her friends were shocked. The Doritos commercial is actually a part of a series, other iterations of it taking place on a tennis court. Landry said that people even wanted to give her a record deal following her popularity for the commercial!
Monster.com: When I Grow Up (1999)
Monster is primarily used to help those seeking work to find job openings, for lower to mid-level employment. The Monster.com commercial in 1999 during the Super Bowl featured children. Children always bring smiles to people’s faces, but when these kids hurl lines like “I want to claw my way up to middle management,” it’s time to sit up and pay attention. Monster sends the message that they may be your boss tomorrow (if they are not already)!
The commercial for Monster.com became successful for “selling the dream, but delivering reality.” The kids also say lines like, “I want to be underappreciated” and “I want to file.. all day.” The commercial aimed to juxtapose the wide-eyed ambition of a kid but he harsh reality of what happens when they actually get to the work world.
E*Trade: Monkey (2000)
E*Trade used animals in their advertising plan for their Super Bowl commercial. And it didn’t take much to make this an instant classic. The tagline will have you paying attention but here’s something that will knock your socks off: This commercial was very low budget in 2000 but would have cost around $3 million to make now. Looks like they got the most bang for their buck!
Many critics say that this commercial is genius. The monkey is shown dancing off-beat to “La Cucaracha.” Then the commercial says, “Well, we just wasted two million dollars. What are you doing with your money?” Although the commercial appears to be low-budget, it’s supposed to emphasize a neglectful and unthoughtful way of spending money that E*Trade wants to help you with.
Budweiser: 9/11 Tribute (2002)
This is by far the most emotional commercial on our list, and probably the most emotional Super Bowl commercial of all time, though it’s not as well known as others, since it was only ever aired once. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Budweiser wanted to create a special tribute to the fallen Americans from that day.
In order to film in the city though, they had to get special approval not only from the advertising community, but also members of Congress and the Mayor of New York at the time, Rudy Giuliani. After receiving this approval, Budweiser was able to make an incredibly moving ad that ended with the companies famous Clydesdales horses bowing their heads towards the skyline of Manhattan in remembrance of the fallen. Those Clydesdales would star in Budweiser’s next Super Bowl commercial as well, though with a much lighter tone…
Budweiser: Clydesdales (2003)
If you aren’t a big beer fan (or a Budweiser fan) then you may not know much about The Budweiser Clydesdales. These horses are used for promotions and commercials by the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company. They are used in television commercials for Budweiser beer, particularly in Super Bowl ads, to bring traditional ideology and nostalgia to the audience.
The 2003 commercial featured a group of Clydesdales standing around in the snow. A zebra has its head buried in a play review box and can be shown replaying the footage over and over. The scene is at a standstill, as the replay is apparently taking a long time. There are two cowboys watching the scene and one finally goes, “This referee’s a [expletive]” and the second guy goes, “No, I believe that’s a zebra.”
Reebok: Terry Tate Office Linebacker (2003)
It wouldn’t really be a Super Bowl without a global athletic footwear and apparel company participating in their infamous commercials. In this fun Reebok Super Bowl ad from 2003, linebacker Terry Tate brought order to the office in his new job. This was a great tribute to the movie Office Space and it let us live out a few fantasies; like what would happen if tackling became the new office protocol! Terry Tate launches hit after hit on his office mates. He even yelled, “Break was over 15 minutes ago.” Hilarious!
The commercial was actually one in a series that was developed by Rawson Marshall Thurber and was based on a short film pilot that he made in 2000. Reebok produced nine episodes of the series and it became one of the most successful commercials in Super Bowl halftime history.
Miller High Life: A Guy Yells “High Life” (2009)
So, Miller High Life decided to take the high road in their 2009 Super Bowl commercial. There really isn’t much to it, but that is what makes it so memorable. The one-second commercial begins and ends with a guy yelling, “High life!” And that is it- simple and to the point, right?
Actor Windell Middlebrooks was the man who shouted the phrase, which helped boost sales for Miller High Life. Following the release of the commercial, High Life sales were up 8.6% the week after the Super Bowl that year, compared to the same week the previous year. For a one-second advertisement, this is pretty impressive, especially considering the fact that the commercial didn’t even air in all major markets like Los Angeles or New York.
Snickers: Betty White (2010)
Snickers is all about not leaving people hungry because you are not yourself when you’re hungry. Snickers hit Super Bowl commercial gold when they teamed up with everyone’s favorite golden girl, Betty White. The commercial shows Betty playing tackle football. It is pretty funny to watch Betty White getting tackled into the mud or trading ‘girlfriend’ insults with men. She yells “Come on man, you’ve been riding me all day,” to some 20-something-year-olds and then the Snickers tagline, “You’re not you when you’re hungry,” appears and fits perfectly.
The commercial was a critical success for Snickers, who enlisted BBDO North America to create the ad. David Lubars, who was chairman and chief creative officer for BBDO said that the ad was created “In a fun, over-the-top, wholesome way where everyone just sees the joke, as opposed to where an ad goes over some kind of a line where it’s mean or nasty.” Prior to this commercial, Snickers previously came under fire for making an ad that appeared to be homophobic.
Old Spice: “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” (2010)
One of the best Super Bowl ads of all time is this Old Spice commercial. It has all the makings of a masterpiece. Sexy actor? Check. Brilliant writing? Check. Impressive film effects? Check. Humor? Check. Every time you watch it, it just keeps getting better. It is one of our personal favorites.
Procter & Gamble, who makes Old Spice, enlisted former NFL wide-receiver Isaiah Mustafa to be the new Old Spice Man. He soon became a viral sensation, posting real-time videos responding to numerous Twitter questions all while in character. Since being aired during the Super Bowl, the commercial has been rewatched on YouTube upwards of 13 million times.
Volkswagen: The Force (2011)
In 2011, this modern classic commercial features a cute little kid dressed as Star Wars’ Darth Vader. He tries to use “The Force” on his dog and on his sister’s doll but is unsuccessful. He then turns his powers to the family Passat and he starts the car with his hands. This magic is thanks to his Dad and his remote engine starter but the kid looks startled and amazed by his newfound powers. This commercial is one for the books.
When thinking about airing this commercial for the Super Bowl, Volkswagen faced a dilemma. Their advertisement was simply too long and they worried how it would stand up against other major automaker commercials that would air that same day. But this was the age of the Internet, so they uploaded the ad to YouTube, where it was viewed almost 20 million times before the Super Bowl even started.
Old Milwaukee: “The Milwaukee Kiss” (2013)
In this memorable Super Bowl ad, Will Ferrell and an unidentified Asian woman basically eat each other’s face off — “The Milwaukee Kiss” — and they do it to the sound of a romantic classic tune. We’re not sure why this was a thing but it was quite a sight to see (and you can’t unsee it).
The strange advertisement went nearly unseen when it aired during the Super Bowl in 2013. It was only shown in three small towns: Sherman, Texas; Ardmore, Oklahoma; and Glendive, Montana. Many critics speculate that the execs at Old Milwaukee had hoped the commercial would go viral after trying to find an explanation as to why the commercial only aired in those towns.
GoDaddy’s “Big Kiss” (2013)
GoDaddy Inc. is known for its advertising and it has been involved in several controversies due to censorship. So, the premise of their 2013 Super Bowl commercial is actually quite clever—GoDaddy was going for the shock factor when they aired a close-up kiss with supermodel Bar Refaeli and nerdy Jessie Heiman. Mixing sexy and nerdy to get a website was an interesting angle that stuck with the audience!
The commercial proved to be a success, with GoDaddy gaining 10,000 new customers the Monday following that year’s Super Bowl. It was also successful for Jessie Heiman, who said that he has received Tweets from guys wishing they were him and even requests for pictures and dates from girls who notice him in public.
Wix.com: “It’s That Easy” (2015)
Like GoDaddy, Wix.com is a computer technology company that produces websites. Back in 2015, Wix.com hit the nail on the head with their debut Super Bowl commercial. Five former football greats start their own small businesses with the help of a brand-new website – and agent Rex Lee! This commercial is filled with humor, creativity, and some all-time favorite NFL players. This commercial quickly became a legend.
The commercial reportedly cost $4.5 million to make, but according to Business Insider, a commercial airing during the Super Bowl will not have much success if not backed up by any NFL sponsorship. Wix’s CMO Omer Shai told Business Insider that the investment was well worth the money because he was determined that the ad would reach millions of people.
Budweiser: “Lost Dog” (2015)
And to finish our list, we have Budweiser again. Budweiser struck advertising gold when they introduced the Budweiser puppy to the world. it was a sequel to the “Puppy Love” commercial that won 2014’s Ad Meter. Budweiser used the same strategy to build buzz again. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” says Brian Perkins, Vice President of Budweiser.
In the Budweiser “Lost Dog” ad, the signature puppy gets lost but makes it back home. He makes it home with the help of his pals, the Budweiser Clydesdales. The puppy definitely tugs at everyone’s heart strings when he needs to be saved from a wolf and the Clydesdales jump in to help. An instant classic.