Every year, the Super Bowl is the most watched television event of the year with at least 100 million people tuning in one Sunday every February. Why is it this way? Well, it comes down to two important elements. One, America’s obsession with football and the fact that it’s the biggest football game of the year and two, the commercials.
With the biggest game of the year, companies pull out all the stops and spend as much money as they can to present the biggest commercials to air during the big game. In fact, last year, the cost for a 30 second commercial during the big game reached $4 million.
They are so popular that they are usually recognized for being just as important as the game itself, getting a yearly special on CBS just before the game.
With a collection of nearly 40 years worth of great commercials, which ones are the best ones? Well, that’s what we’re here to do as we take a look at my top 10 favorite Super Bowl Commercials.
Now, let’s set some criteria. We’re gonna leave movie commercials out of it because this list is specifically about the company commercials and I’ve never seen a movie commercial that would be considered a favorite Super Bowl commercial. And also, keep in mind that as always, this is just my personal list so don’t get pissed off if your favorites aren’t on this list, I shouldn’t have to explain this by now but I know I’m still going to get some person who doesn’t get it. But, I digress, let’s get to the actual list:
10. Pepsi – Cindy Crawford (1992)
Taking one of the most beautiful models in the world, Cindy Crawford, and putting her in a commercial for Pepsi at the time of their latest can change was a clever and brilliant idea. The commercial works because it’s one of those commercials that tricks you into thinking it’s about something but then it switches over to something else and does it very well.
This commercial certainly left an impact on its’ audience and even had a sequel ad in 2002 when Diet Pepsi debuted their new can with Crawford returning…but there’s a twist:
Also, did you notice that Crawford still looked just as beautiful as she did ten years earlier? I mean, even now, she still looks pretty. I don’t know what it is but I’m seeing with a lot of models that even if they get older, they still look incredible. It’s probably plastic surgery but for all I know, that could be natural.
But anyway, the commercial is certainly one to remember and for good reason, it’s a great ad featuring a great hook and making it work. It really is a thing of beauty.
9. Nike – Hare Jordan (1992)
As the commercial states, this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the NBA champ Michael Jordan and the legendary Looney Tunes that continued for over a decade after its’ debut resulting in 1996’s Space Jam.
What makes this commercial work as well as it does is that it has the overall feel of a classic Looney Tunes cartoon modernized for the audience of the 90s and in a 60 second commercial. The commercial does a good job at paying homage to the classic cartoons and making the pairing of Bugs Bunny & Michael Jordan feel naturalistic like they could actually exist as friends in real life.
Its’ sequel ad that followed at the following year’s Super Bowl was just as good:
These ads were very funny, they did a good job of blending animation and live-action, and they were just a lot of fun to watch. Great commercials featuring two of the most legendary icons in pop culture.
8. Coca-Cola – Stewie Vs. Underdog (2008)
This is one of those commercials that doesn’t get as much appreciation as it should because it’s actually a pretty damn good ad. Essentially, you have two parade balloons shaped like Underdog and Stewie from Family Guy fighting over a Coca-Cola balloon and going all throughout New York city beating each other up the only way balloons can do to get it but their bickering eventually allows a Charlie Brown balloon the chance to take the Coke, not only making Stewie and Underdog not very happy but finally giving Charlie Brown a win in his life.
What makes this work is that this commercial is done mainly with music, there’s no dialogue whatsoever and it’s all done through that music of Wagner’s Siegfried. But the other thing that helps the commercial is that ending where Charlie Brown just pops up and takes the coke from them. Not only do we get a nice little homage to Lucy but like I said, it’s actually nice to see Charlie Brown catch a break and win something. I actually read that the last part off the ad was added in after Coke hated the original ending in which the Coke balloon deflated and the commercial ended there.
Whatever the story is, it’s a great ad that doesn’t get the appreciation I think it needs because it’s a wonderful ad. And speaking of Charlie Brown…
7. Metlife – Everyone (2012)
I mean, how can you not get enthusiastic when you see all your favorite classic cartoon characters all into one commercial. Not only do you have the Peanuts characters, who are more common with MetLife, but you also get Scooby Doo, many of the Looney Tunes characters, Fat Albert, Mr. Peabody And Sherman, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, He-Man, Jabberjaw and many, many more all put into one ad. It’s basically the biggest animation all-star cast to be put into one thing since Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
What makes the commercial work is the nostalgia factor, it’s amazing to see all these great cartoon characters we grew up with as kids all in one place and the animation on all the characters is very good, doing a good job blending animation and live-action very well.
It’s a great commercial that works because of the nostalgia factor. Like I said, who doesn’t love watching all their favorite childhood characters together in one spot? I sure as heck don’t.
6. Bud Bowl (1989 – 1994)
Talk about a concept you’d think would never work but it did. The Bud Bowl is, of course, the epic battle between Budweiser & Bud Light which was surprisingly just as epic and exciting as the Super Bowl itself.
Running from 1989 to 1994, the Bud Bowl ads worked because of the really impressive stop motion animation and later computer animation, the fact that Budweiser treated these very seriously, and that they were all very entertaining and fun to watch.
I always wonder why Budweiser has never decided to continue making these because honestly, a revival of the Bud Bowl could actually pretty fun to watch. But hey, can’t always win but what I can say is that the Bud Bowl ads worked because they were just as fun and enjoyable to watch as the actual big game itself, something that shows that it wasn’t easy to accomplish.
5. Volkswagen – The Force (2011)
In this ad, we basically have a little kid dressed up as Darth Vader pretending that he is Darth Vader trying to use the force on everything and by the end, hoping to use the force on his dad’s car, which he thinks he does before we see that it’s his dad that turned the car on but it’s not worth telling him that.
What makes the ad work is how relevant it is. A lot of us looked at Star Wars or these other classic films as kids and we would use that are our motivation when we played. Much like the Coca-Cola ad I mentioned, there’s no dialogue and the heart of it comes from John Williams’ score and from the kid itself. And much like the Coca-Cola ad, the best part is the ending when the kid tries to use the force on the car and he believes he did it, his reaction is friggin’ priceless.
The commercial works mostly because of the kid, Max Page, who does a fantastic job recreating the role of Darth Vader in the ad. Heck, he even got to meet the actual Darth Vader, James Earl Jones:
I mean, I ask anybody to not get a smile out of watching this ad because it’s really hard to do. It’s a great ad with a kid actor who perfectly sells the role and captures our childhood memories very well.
4. NFL Network – Tomorrow (2004 & 2005)
A simple concept by taking NFL players and coaches who weren’t playing in the Super Bowl and having them sing “Tomorrow” from Annie, these commercials work very well because they can actually sing very well. I never thought I’d see the day where you’d hear Michael Strahan and Ben Roethlisberger singing Tomorrow and doing a damn good job at it.
This is another series of commercials that I don’t think gets enough appreciation because both ads are pretty solid and once again, the players and coaches they got can actually sing pretty damn well. The day after the Super Bowl, we’re all undefeated again but if it means we can get these players and coaches to continue singing Tomorrow in the near future, I’m good with that.
3. Budweiser – Clydesdale Football Game (1996)
Can’t talk about one of the best Super Bowl commercials without bringing up the Budweiser Clydesdales, who have become synonymous with the Super Bowl itself having a commercial with them every year since this ad. Everybody has their favorite but this one’s my personal favorite just for how epic it is.
Again, the idea of horses playing football sounds incredibly stupid but the way Budweiser does this ad and making it seem more epic and action packed that it has every right to be, it’s just so awesome to watch.
Shot beautifully and filled with enough action and epicness to make it all the more enjoyable, the Budweiser Clydesdale Football Game ad is one ad that I always remember when I think of great super bowl commercials.
2. Coca-Cola – Mean Joe Greene (1980)
Yeah, you all knew that this was coming, one of the most popular Super Bowl commercials of all time, you’d all think I would be insane if I didn’t include this classic in this list and honestly, it is a classic. It’s a great heartwarming commercial that you can’t help but love.
So, what makes the commercial work on its’ own merits? Most likely because of Greene and the kid themselves, they both work off each other very well and the commercial itself doesn’t feel forced or overdone, it feels natural like if you were to see this in real life, it’d probably go down like that.
This commercial was so popular that it even spawned a TV movie in 1981 with a young Henry Thomas, pre E.T. . Think about that for a second, a one minute ad for Coca-Cola gets later expanded as an NBC TV movie? And I thought we were running out of ideas for original movies today?
But other than that, the commercial has been satirized numerous times from shows like Newhart, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama, and even Coca-Cola made a parody ad in 2009 with Troy Polamalu for Coke Zero that aired during that year’s Super Bowl:
Whether you’ve seen it be satirized or as the actual commercial, it’s still a classic ad for a number of reasons and I’d be a fool not to include it on this list.
and the #1 best Super Bowl commercial is…
Apple – 1984 (1984)
Just recently celebrating its’ 30th anniversary, this classic ad from Apple is not only the greatest Super Bowl ad of all time, it’s also one of the greatest ads of all time, if not, the greatest.
Directed by Ridley Scott, this amazing ad costing near $1 million, which at the time was unprecedented, is a visual spectacle similar to Scott’s Blade Runner with an impressive story, great music, decent acting, and a lot of great visual effects for the time all put into one ad that has stood the test of time.
For a commercial like this, it’s amazing that nobody has been able to capture the same magic that this did. I know I’ve talked about in the past how the commercials of today, even the epic ones, pale in comparison to the old days but honestly, it’s because of commercials like this that make me believe that because with the technology we have today, it can not be that difficult to make a commercial that’s just as epic and brilliantly handled as this one is.
Apple, the following year, followed that up with this ad that a lot of people seem to hate but honestly, I think it’s still an impressive ad giving a unique stylistic vision and also adding a lot of creepy elements to it:
In 2004, for the ad’s 20th anniversary, they decided to re-release the ad but they changed a slight thing about the ad. See if you can guess what it is by looking at the ad:
Yep, they threw in an Ipod on the girl. Why? I have no idea. It’s a dumb decision because the 1984 ad is a timeless ad, you can watch that ad 50 years from now and think, I can tell when this ad takes place but when you throw in an Ipod, the ad loses its’ timeless value. It’s nowhere near as bad as the countless alterations that George Lucas throws in to the Star Wars movies but it’s more of a nuisance thing that makes you want to ask Steve Jobs what the hell he was thinking by throwing that in there?
But hey, unlike George Lucas, Steve Jobs isn’t hiding old copies of the ads like Lucas does with the original Star Wars movies so I’ll give Jobs props for that.
Still, Apple’s 1984 really is one of the greatest commercials ever made boasting great visuals, awesome direction from Ridley Scott, a great story, good acting, and a timeless feel that makes the commercial never feel like it’s old.
Not just the best Super Bowl commercial of all time but one of the greatest commercials of all time, period.
So, will this year’s ads join that impressive list? Well, you’re gonna have to find out on Sunday night as Super Bowl XLVIII takes the stage and as I’ve said before, I will be live commenting on Super Sunday with The TV Weekly Live with Super Bowl XLVIII and the Super Bowl episodes of New Girl & Brooklyn Nine Nine.
On both my Facebook page and my Twitter page, I’ll be live commenting on the Super Bowl talking about whatever happens during the big game so join me on Sunday night at 6pm Eastern Time/5pm Central on my Facebook and Twitter pages for the live commentary during the game.
Until then, follow The Reviewing Network at our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheReviewingNetwork for continuing updates and debuts for new blog posts.