Sure, some people watch the Super Bowl for the game, but what gets most people talking around the water cooler or online are the ad spots.
From companies that continue to nail it every year, like Pepsi and Budweiser, to ads that tug on the heartstrings, to the weird and wacky commercials that have you scratching your head or laughing out loud, here’s some of the most iconic Super Bowl commercials of all time.
Apple – “1984”, 1984
The iconic big budget announcement of Apple’s Macintosh computer marks the birth of the brand’s iconic “Think Different” slogan and is oft-cited as one of the best commercials of all time. Before “1984”, brands weren’t typically spending the big bucks on ads and Apple’s “1984” commercial showed the Super Bowl was a platform for getting their message out there. And 34 years later, “1984” still gets name dropped and talked about by people who weren’t even alive at the time. Not bad for a commercial that was only aired once.
Pepsi – “Britney Spears Pepsi Generation”, 2002
Pepsi is one of those brands that constantly nails their Super Bowl ads. Case in point, 2002’s “Pepsi generation” spot that show Britney Spears singing and shimmying her way through the decades. A brand that has long-used celebs to sell their products, including the Spice Girls and Ray Charles, their 1992 Super Bowl ad with Cindy Crawford is also one of the brand’s most iconic – and sexiest – Super Bowl spots. The supermodel even recreated the memorable spot to air during this year’s game.
Coca-Cola – “Mean Joe Greene”, 1980
Pepsi isn’t the only soda brand to deliver a memorable Super Bowl ad. Coca-Cola’s 1980 ad with Joe Greene took the focus away from the soft drink and focused on the emotional connection, demonstrating that effective storytelling goes a long way, even when you’re just selling a can of Coke.
Budweiser – “Frogs”, 1995
The simple and slightly weird concept behind Budweiser’s 1995 “Frogs” ad is just one of the company’s brilliant Super Bowl commercials. It was nearly impossible to drink a Bud and not think of this trio of frogs ribbiting out the beer’s name.
McDonald’s – “The Showdown”, 1993
Basketball hero Michael Jordan faced off against his arch-rival Larry Bird in this memorable 1993 spot for the fast food giant which saw the players challenge one another in an elaborate game of H-O-R-S-E. The prize? A BigMac meal. The ad’s “Nothin’ but net” became an early-1990s catchphrase after the commercial aired.
Volkswagen – “The Force”, 2011
No one can resist the power of the Force, especially when it comes from a pint-sized Darth Vader. The minute-plus spot takes a full 30 seconds to even get to the thing the company is trying to sell, proving that viewers love a good storyline and sparked massive social engagement online.
Mountain Dew Kickstart – “Puppymonkeybaby”, 2016
This ad for Mountain Dew spawned a collective “WHAT?” from viewers who were confused by this bizarre and oddly catchy commercial. People rushed to tweet about the impossible-to-ignore ad proving that sometimes going weird works.
Always – “Like A Girl”, 2015
Though it didn’t premiere during the Super Bowl, Always’ “Like A Girl” spot had a huge impact when it aired during the predominately male-oriented sporting event. The brand perfectly illustrated to the male-heavy audience that words matter with their reminder about respecting and encouraging women. The campaign went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial.
Old Spice – “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”, 2010
Great special effects and a great-looking guy helped pave the way for Old Spice’s unique ad campaigns.
Amazon – “Baldwin Bowl”, 2016
Amazon’s silly Echo ad added some star power with the strange combination of Alec Baldwin, Dan Marino, Jason Schwartzman and Missy Elliot, using a creative approach to show how the newly-launched Echo could seamlessly interact with people while showcasing every functional thing it can do – from playing music to turning on the lights.
Budweiser – “Wassup”, 2000
Five years after their ingenious “Frogs” Super Bowl spot, Budweiser was back to bring the future and inescapable catchphrase of dude bros everywhere, building on an ad that had aired at the end of 1999. The LOL-worthy spot was based on a pretty simple concept and didn’t try to overtly sell the company’s beer. Instead, it was just a look at your average group of friends hanging out, watching the game and cracking open a cold one.
Google – “Parisian Love”, 2010
Super Bowl ads are not known for their subtlety, but Google proved that minimal ads can also get a powerful and emotional message across.
Budweiser – “Lost Dog”, 2015
Zero gimmicks. A heartwarming story. Lots of emotion. And a dog. Budweiser once again knocked it out of the park, delivering yet another of the year’s most talked about Super Bowl commercials.
Disney – “I’m Going To Disney”, 1987
“I’m going to Disney World” has become a pop culture catchphrase thanks to this 1987 Super Bowl ad for the theme park. The phrase is most-closely associated with the Super Bowl when Phil Simms uttered the now-iconic phrase when asked how he was going to celebrate his big win. But it wasn’t a totally candid remark – Disney CEO Michael Eisner reportedly paid $75,000 for Simms to say the magic words. And thus, a cultural phenomenon was born. The campaign has aired after nearly every Super Bowl with players like Eli Manning spouting the famous phrase. Over the years, non-football spots have also aired with Miss America, the Calgary Flames, Nancy Kerrigan, Dwyane Wade, Bruce Springsteen and more.
Time will tell which of this year’s ads will be remembered and imitated for years to come. Take a peek at some of the already-released commercials set to air during Super Bowl LII: