Super Bowl Advertising: A Look at the Most Memorable Commercials in Super Bowl History

Undoubtedly, the final game of the NFL season that crowns the league’s champion, known as the Super Bowl, is the most-watched event on American TV screens yearly. Thus, it stands to reason that US companies would savor an opportunity to market their products and services to the over one hundred million Americans that tune in to watch the annual Super Bowl broadcast. To illustrate the magnitude of this game, in 2022, the American Gaming Association estimated that $7.7 billion got wagered at retail outlets and betting sites for Super Bowl 56. 

Over the decades, the Super Bowl commercial phenomenon has gotten a life of its own on account of the event’s diverse demographic reach and super-high viewership numbers. Having an advertainment running during it helps business entities build brand awareness and generate buzz, and gives them a sense of prestige. That is so because not anyone can afford to pay the increasing price tag that comes with airing an advertising spot amidst this high-profile telecast. In 1967, the cost for a thirty-second commercial got listed at $37,500, and today, it has hit $6.5 million for one of the few limited spots available.

Naturally, when companies are forking substantial lump sums over for a short timeframe on people’s screens, they want to make these moments count. Most opt to do this by incorporating humor and celebrities. What follows is a list of what many online pundits consider the ten best marketing efforts shown during NFL championship games in the past four decades.

Clash of Clans: Revenge – 2015

Clash of Clans is a free-to-play mobile game published and developed by Finish company Supercell. It debuted for iOS devices in mid-2012 and hit Google Play in late 2013. In 2015, Super Bowl viewers saw ultra-intense Liam Neeson mimicking his role of former CIA agent Bryan Mills from the Taken franchise, swearing revenge over a COC competitor on his phone in the middle of a busy coffee shop. The humorous sketch-like ad gained sizeable popularity because Neeson’s performance includes a copy of the famous Taken monologue, where the Irish actor threatens the traffickers that abduct his on-screen daughter over the phone.

Halftime in America – Chrysler – 2012

Likely the greatest living American cinematic legend is Clint Eastwood. In 2012, the multi-time Academy Award-winner narrated a Chrysler Commercial produced by Portland, Oregon-based agency Wieden+Kennedy, promoting solidarity with one another and the renowned American automobile brand as an example of this. The commercial went viral, but it drew criticisms from many who saw it as an endorsement of the Chrysler 2008/09 bailout and a second term for Barack Obama.

Volkswagen’s The Force – 2011

Per many marketing gurus, Volkswagen’s 2011 ad featuring a child ambling around his house as Darth Vader, attempting to use the Dark Side of the force, changed Super Bowl advertising forever. The credit for this falls on Volkswagen’s team deciding to release it early online, a strategy never before used that paid off in a big way, as the ad quickly garnered millions of views on YouTube and boosted the anticipation for its airing during the game.

Betty White for Snickers – 2010

Betty White was eighty-eight years old when she filmed the now infamous – you are not you when you are hungry Snickers commercial that launched the brand from seventh place into category leadership. By all polls, this football-themed ad stole the show in 2010, and it remains fondly remembered as one of the funniest and most memorable ads, in general, of the last couple of decades, if not ever.

Heineken’s the Run – 2005

David Fincher is the director of such movie classics as Se7en, The Game, Zodiac, the Social Network, and Gone Girl. In 2005, he agreed to direct a commercial starring friend and actor Brad Pitt produced by the Wieden+Kennedy agency, about the then Mr. & Mrs. Smith star leaving his hotel room to grab a six-pack of Heineken beer. It was a one-minute spot that ended with the slogan – Heineken – Meet You There, and wowed audiences with its scope and cinematic quality.

Replay – Budweiser – 2003

Here is another ad in the Football Playing Clydesdales series for Budweiser, where a zebra stands in front of a monitor analyzing a play, much like an NFL ref would do, as a pack of horses in snow look on in anticipation. It is a whimsical thirty-second commercial with two lines of dialogue that has stood the test of time.

Laundromat – Doritos – 1998

Doritos is one of the brands most synonymous with Super Bowl broadcasts. The American flavored tortilla chip manufacturer has run more than forty ads in the middle of NFL championship games, with the first dating back to 1989. In their 1998 one, starring Sean Hayes and Ali Landry, they utilized 3D effects to promote their line of 3D snacks.

Michael Jordan & Larry Bird – McDonald’s – 1993

Basketball players get no more acclaimed than His Airness and the Hick from French Lick. These two hoopsters from different legendary NBA franchises dueled on the court in the late 1980s and early 1990s and in this 1993 halftime Super Bowl ad, where they competed in a series of trick shots for a Big Mac. The caveat in their contest was that the loser must watch the winner eat his prize, though the commercial never shows who won.

Cindy Crawford – Pepsi – 1992

The supermodel era spawned much of the 1980s up to the middle of the 1990s, and Cindy Crawford was one of its most popular figures as a ubiquitous presence on runways and magazine covers. In 1992, she appeared in an ad for Pepsi titled New Can, which featured her getting out of a Lamborghini in a gas station in the middle of nowhere and drinking a Pepsi in front of two young boys, who continuously praised the drink’s novel container.

Apple’s 1984

Ridley Scott’s 1984 commercial that introduced Apple’s Macintosh PC is probably the most impactful advertisement on this list, as it gets brought up by filmmakers to this day for its style and ambiguous nature. It got developed by Chiat/Day company from Venice, California, with art design by Brent Thomas. Of course, its setting is a nod to George Orwell’s most noted novel – Nineteen Eighty-Four. While reflecting on these iconic commercials from the past, don’t miss out on the live action and potential new legendary ads; secure your Super Bowl 2024 tickets at TicketSmarter to witness history in the making.

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