The best Super Bowl commercials of all time
Back in 1967, a 30-second Super Bowl commercial cost between $37,500 and $42,500. This year, the average 30-second ad will knock you back $4.99 million.
Considering the enormous expense, it’s no wonder ad agencies pull out all the stops to ensure the commercial they produce has people talking long after a winner is crowned.
We've seen just about every ad gimmick imaginable throughout the Super Bowl's 56-year history. In the 1970s, Super Bowl commercials embraced catchy jingles, and liked to teach the world to sing. The 80s saw a hodgepodge of advertising themes, such as Apple's dystopian 1984 ad, which was considered groundbreaking at the time. The 90s demonstrated the effect of celebrity endorsements, and the 2000s experimented by pulling at the heart strings.
Let’s look back at some of these memorable ads that aired during the NFL’s most high-profile game of the year. Here are the five best Super Bowl commercials of all time, as we look ahead to Super Bowl LVI.
Honorable mention: Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.'s Super Bowl LII commercial
What better time to promote the NFL than during the league’s biggest game?
Ahead of the 2020 season, the NFL grabbed our attention during Super Bowl LIII, with a star-studded two-minute spot, featuring an array of football stars, past and present, celebrating the upcoming 100th NFL season.
The commercial ranked first in popularity on USA Today’s ad meter, but the NFL's best work came a year prior, during Super Bowl LII.
In an ad starring Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr., the former teammates rehearse a touchdown dance inspired by Dirty Dancing's most iconic scene.
Apparently, no body doubles were used in the filming of this commercial — which, we could kind of tell.
5. "It's a Tide ad," 2018
This is just your typical Super Bowl car ad, right? Or a witty beer ad?
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell what a Super Bowl commercial is actually promoting, but as Stranger Things star David Harbour continually assures us in this 2018 spot, the commercial we're consuming is a Tide ad.
This promo, which quickly trended on Twitter during Super Bowl LII, was not only brilliant for its meta messaging, but it also kept us on our toes throughout the entire game.
The brand also paid for a few shorter ads that caught us off guard. One seemingly began as a Mr. Clean commercial, only to transform into a Tide ad. Similarly, the famous "man your man could smell like" from a viral 2010 Old Spice Super Bowl push appeared on screen while riding a horse, only to again become immersed in a Harbour Tide ad.
By the end of the night, we were all wondering, "Does this make every Super Bowl ad a Tide ad?"
4. Monster's "When I Grow Up" ad, 1999
Super Bowl commercials often go for a punchline, but in 1999, Monster.com proved you can win viewers over with emotion, as well.
During Super Bowl XXXIII, the employment website asked us, "What did you want to be?" and really made us rethink the question.
The commercial was hugely successful for the company and has since paved the way for other sentimental ads, like Always' "Play like a Girl" spot from 2015 and Google's "Loretta" ad in 2020.
3. Betty White's Snickers ad, 2010
"You're not you when you're hungry" has become a long-lasting slogan for Snickers, all because of the popularity of Betty White's cameo in a 2010 Super Bowl commercial.
In the ad, the late film actress is seen jogging around a football field, throwing around the old pigskin with her buddies. As she takes a tackle in the mud, one of her friends chastises her for "playing like Betty White out there!"
To solve the issue, a woman from the sideline hurries onto the field to hand White's character a Snickers bar, which magically changes White's appearance to her real persona, Mike.
The comical ad fostered a number of spinoffs, with celebrities like Aretha Franklin, Liza Minnelli, and Joe Pesci. Snickers also returned to run the same campaign in Super Bowl XLIX, with the Brady Bunch and Danny Trejo, and again in Super Bowl 50, with Willem Dafoe turning into Marilyn Monroe.
2. Cindy Crawford's Pepsi ad, 1992
Of all the memorable Super Bowl commercials Pepsi has produced, the most iconic is, by far, its 1992 ad with Cindy Crawford.
In the 30-second spot, Crawford drives up to a gas station in a flashy car, as two young boys look on in awe. However, in a surprise twist, it isn't the supermodel the kids are fawning over. It's Pepsi's new can design.
While simple, the ad does everything right. It utilizes a celebrity endorsement effectively, features the brand prominently, and provides a subtle touch of humor at the end to make this commercial unforgettable.
1. Budweiser's singing frogs ad, 1995
Budweiser is not only the King of Beers — it's the king of Super Bowl commercials.
From Clydesdales to "Dilly Dilly," Anheuser-Busch has entertained us for decades during Super Bowl Sunday, with heartwarming, hilarious, and harmonious promos. Because their advertising is so good, it's difficult to pick just one Budweiser commercial to rule them all.
You can tell within seconds this is a Budweiser ad, and while the sound of frogs chanting "Bud-weis-er" isn't necessarily pleasant, it's undeniably catchy.
If you saw this commercial in the 90s, chances are you walked into the office or school the next day muttering the snappy chorus under your breath.
The ad actually became too popular, as a 1996 study determined that kids were more familiar with Budweiser's animated frogs than Smokey the Bear. The finding forced the brand to shy away from the ad campaign and eventually replace the frogs with lizards.
Controversy aside, this commercial by director Gore Verbinski did exactly what it was supposed to do. It had everyone talking about Budweiser long after the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.