5 best Super Bowl ads of all time

The Super Bowl has become a nationwide phenomenon which at this point has transcended just the sport of football and has entered into sacred cultural territory within this country.

It is the highest viewed program in the United States every year, by a wide margin (115 million viewers in 2023) and it’s enjoyed by even those who do not watch a single other football game all year. Whoever performs the halftime show normally sees his or her music catalogue shoot up the charts in the days which follow, all of social media is completely enthralled by everything in and around the game throughout the entire day, and then there are the commercials.

With so many eyeballs fixated, even a 30-second advertising slot during the program comes at a premium. By some calculations, a $7 million premium for exactly that amount of time in 2023 (and the price is expected to remain the same in 2024). As a result, companies who make this investment always try to bring their A-game in creativity and impact when it comes to those ads.

It’s gotten to a point where you have some people who literally tune in just to see what the commercials will be. There have been some really good ones over the years, and I’ve tried my best to rank what I think have been the best of the best.

5) Avocados From Mexico (multiple years)

I’m cheating a little bit here by putting more than just one advertisement into this slot, but this is more of a tribute to the incredible job Avocados from Mexico has done as a whole with their Super Bowl commercials year in and year out.

When you think of the companies who can and do afford Super Bowl advertising, it’s mostly huge brands that have a seemingly endless supply of financial resources (Apple, Amazon, Google, Coca-Cola etc). Avocados From Mexico aren’t exactly on that level from a brand-value perspective. A much higher percentage of their advertising budget normally goes into their yearly Super Bowl commercial in comparison to these other big-named brands, so the margin for error is much more thin as a result.

That makes it even more impressive that they knock it out of the park seemingly every time. It started with the “first draft ever” commercial in 2015 and ensued in the years to follow with an incredible amount of creativity and lightheartedness with each passing year’s commercial. And the payoff has been immense, as the brand has flourished into a company which does $11 billion annually in sales.

I only put their first three commercials here to not clutter the article, but Avocados from Mexico seem to get it right every time, to the point where I look forward to their specific commercial every Super Bowl. Much to my chagrin, it was announced that we will not be getting an Avocados From Mexico Commercial in 2024, however.

4) Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (2010)

When I was in graduate school, in my Brand Management class, my professor gave the real-world example of Old Spice as a brand which had successfully remade itself in the eyes of younger consumers. He said that when he was younger, Old Spice was “what your grandfather used” — young men could not be caught wearing it. In recent times that has completely changed, with Old Spice successfully repositioning itself as a more “cool” selection for the younger demographic.

That repositioning started with one of the most commercially successful advertisements of all time, during the 2010 Super Bowl. It was inspired by a key statistic discovered by Old Spice in doing market research — that 60% of body wash purchases weren’t bought by men at all, but rather by women for their men.

It took just 30 seconds, but the man in the ad (Isaiah Mustafa) who steps out of the shower, gleaming in muscle and unwavering confidence, addresses all of the women at attention and tries to completely woo them in romance, presumably being presented as the ideal man. He repeatedly lets them know that while their man “isn’t me, he could smell like me, if he uses Old Spice.”

It’s creative and to the point, and the effects are long lasting. This commercial garnered over 5 million Youtube views in one day, and was the primary catalyst in making Old Spice the top-selling body wash for men in 2010, increasing their sales by 107% year over year. To this day, Old Spice is no longer looked at as just your grandfather’s body wash, and this ad campaign is now being talked about in university classrooms.

3) Google – Loretta (2020)

You can strike gold with your advertisement if you are able to successfully appeal to the viewer’s emotions. Google has created multiple successful emotionally appealing Super Bowl advertisements, starting with Parisian Love in 2010, but their “Loretta” advertisement a full decade later took things to another level.

An old man recalls his lifelong loving relationship with his now-deceased wife, Loretta, with Google there to help him “remember” every moment he mentions to the search engine, from her favorite vacation spot to seemingly obscure little things she used to tell him, whilst showcasing photos of the pair along the way.

Google is telling the viewer that it is able to help them with their day-to-day tasks, and they leave a memorable impression between the heartwarming narration combined with the somber piano music being played in the background, letting you know that this was a love which feels eternal. This one likely brought viewers the most tears of any commercial that year.

2) Coke – “Hey Kid, Catch” (1979)

I do not think there is a single more iconic Super Bowl commercial than Coca-Cola’s 1980 advertisement featuring a battered Mean Joe Greene, accepting a Coke from a little boy in the tunnel following what looked like a tough football game. This commercial actually originally aired a few months earlier, in 1979, but it made its mark when Coke bought the advertising space for the 1980 Super Bowl, during which Greene and his Pittsburgh Steelers actually won their fourth title in six years, solidifying a dynasty.

After initially denying the little boy’s offer, Greene ends up accepting the Coke, chugging the entire bottle before making the kid’s day by calling him back, and flipping him his jersey to the iconic line: “hey kid, catch,” while offering a warm smile.

At this point, Mean Joe Greene was a living legend to football fans. It was near the end of his career and he had already accumulated 10 Pro Bowls, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, four First-Team All-Pros and was in the midst of winning his fourth title. This commercial escalated him to the highest levels of pop culture superstardom, however, as it was repeated for years and was spoofed as well as parodied for decades.

Coke was reportedly disappointed that their sales did not immediately increase following the commercial, but the residual effect of so much exposure decades later more than made up for that. It also resulted in an eventual branding partnership with the Steelers.

This commercial also aided Greene in the softening of his once all-too-tough persona as he recalled in a 1992 interview: “Little kids were no longer afraid of me, and older people – both women and men – would come up and offer me a Coke.” He went on to talk about the impact the Coke ad made for him in general as well: “Aside from football, it’s been my whole life.”

1) Budweiser – Puppy Love (2014)

It’s a cinematic masterpiece, which tells a touching story all in the one minute of airtime it was allotted, and with it, Budweiser hit an absolute Grand Slam when it debuted “Puppy Love” during the 2014 Super Bowl.

The company found a winning formula with its emotional 2013 “Brotherhood” commercial featuring the heartfelt reunion of a trainer and his Clydesdale horse, and they dipped back into that well a year later to tell the story of a 10-week-old puppy who forms a bond with that Clydesdale, featuring the same actor reprising his role as the trainer.

The puppy keeps finding his way out of the kennel and back into the stable, rain or shine, to make his way back to his Clydesdale friend and when he is adopted and begins getting driven away, the horses all make a mad dash gallop to stop that from happening.

The end of the commercial features the puppy and horse playing together in the field, along with the trainer and kennel owner watching them together with the message of “Grab some Buds.” The entire commercial is set to the tune of Passenger’s “Let her Go” which was a perfect song selection.

This ad ended up being named the most popular Super Bowl advertisement of all time a few years later during a USA Today 30th anniversary bracket of Super Bowl commercials. A year later it produced a sequel to complete the Clydesdale advertisement trilogy but nothing can beat the heartwarming 2014 story of friendship.

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