Iconic ads from the likes of Reebok, Chrysler, Bud, Bud Light, and CareerBuilder, from past Super Bowl telecasts.
The commercials, over the years, have become one of the most popular aspects of the Super Bowl. It represents the best of what Madison Avenue has been working on for the past year, meant to go in front of the largest audience of the year. The commercials can make the experience of watching the game better if it’s a blowout, and also provide some entertainment for Super Bowl party attendees who aren’t so into football.
In recent years, the genre has struggled a bit, leaning way too heavily on saccharine human interest tales, witless movie parodies, and references to previous Super Bowl commercials. But at its best, the genre can represent true art.
We ranked the best Super Bowl commercials of all time a year ago. Here are ten more:
10. “You Got the Right One, Baby, Uh Huh” (Diet Pepsi, 1991)
Featuring Ray Charles and a huge choir, this one debuted at the Super Bowl and was extremely ubiquitous for about a year after that. Along with the Cindy Crawford ad and the “Pepsi Summer Chill Out,” this part of an absolutely glorious run for Pepsi commercials during that particular era.
The commercial was produced by BBD&O, based on an original song written by the ad team.
Charles had an absolutely legendary career, but the commercial likely introduced him to an entire generation.
9. “The 100-Year Game” (NFL, 2019)
The NFL, during most Super Bowls, features an ad for itself, and one of the better ones came in 2019. Meant to kick off the celebration of the league’s centennial, it features several NFL stars at a black tie dinner, playing football with a gold ball that was on top of a cake.
More than 40 players participate, with Franco Harris and Odell Beckham, Jr., re-enacting their own famous catches.
The ad was directed by filmmaker Peter Berg and was shot in four different cities — Los Angeles, Boston, Orlando, and New Orleans — indicating that those players were never actually all in the same room.
8. Larry David, crypto skeptic (FTX, 2022)
Among the ones that debuted at last year’s Super Bowl, this commercial was the favorite of many at the time. But it’s since become a classic for completely different, ironic reasons.
The conceit is that Larry David has been skeptical of every major invention throughout history. And that skepticism continues all the way up to today, with cryptocurrency.
Of course, the company he was endorsing was FTX. The person sitting across from him says “it’s FTX. A safe easy way to get into crypto.” In the year since FTX collapsed, its founders are under federal indictment, and billions of dollars were lost. The people who were skeptical — even the ones, like Larry, who were paid by FTX to pretend to be skeptical in a commercial — were very much right to be.
As for Larry, hopefully, this saga can provide some material for the next Curb Your Enthusiasm season. And I hope for his sake that FTX paid him in cash.
7. Bud Bowl (Budweiser, 1989-1997)
So simple, so stupid, but when I was a kid I loved this stuff.
For eight years, Budweiser had an annual Bud Bowl, an animated football game between beer bottles that was played over the course of each Super Bowl, with plentiful beer puns throughout.
In the first year, every player appeared to be named “Bud,” although further characters were added in subsequent years. In the best of them all, Bud Bowl III, “Bud Dry” was the hotshot draftee, with “Billy Bud” and “Bobby Bud” the opposing captains. It all ended with a parody of “The Play,” with the beer bottles darting through the band on the field.
The final itineration was less successful, as the idea had pretty much run out of steam, with the Bud Bowl being played in the fridge of the brand’s “I Love You, Man” character.
6. “The Joust” (Bud Light and Game of Thrones, 2019)
Probably the most shocking Super Bowl ad of the last decade started out as an ad for one thing, ended as an ad for another, and included the violent death of one of the participants.
The Joust ad started with Bud Knight, the “dilly dilly” guy participating in a joist. It slowly turned into a commercial for the then-upcoming final Game of Thrones season, even re-enacting the hyper-violent “Mountain and the Viper” scene. Then it ended with a dragon appearing and setting waste to the Bud Knight’s village.
Sure, the hero’s death was legitimately shocking, much like that of Ned Stark back in season 1. But the ads apparently required high-level negotiations between the brands.
5. “Halftime in America” (Chrysler, 2012)
A few months before he talked to a chair at the Republican National Convention, Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood talked up the American auto industry at a precarious time, in this Wieden+Kennedy spot for Chrysler.
It was a rare commercial endorsement for Eastwood, and a longer-than-usual commercial, running about two minutes.
“This country can’t be knocked out in one punch,” Clint said. “We get back up again, and when we do, the world is gonna hear the roar of our engines.”
4. “The Force” (Volkswagen, 2011)
All sorts of Super Bowl commercials in recent years have riffed on popular movies. But few have done so with as much wit as this Volkswagen spot, which combined the introduction of a new remote start product feature with a kid thinking he’s using The Force.
The crowd-pleasing ad arrived shortly after the announcement that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm and would revive the Star Wars series, and a brief moment of universal positivity before the polarizing revival of the sequel trilogy.
3. “Terry Tate: Office Linebacker” (Reebok, 2003)
Another one that everyone absolutely loved at the time, this Reebok spot was created by Rawson Marshall Thurber, the future director of Dodgeball, Central Intelligence, Skyscraper, and Red Notice.
The campaign starred Lester Speight as the titular ex-football player, hired by a company called Felcher & Sons to improve discipline at the office, mostly by dramatically tackling people. An HR nightmare? For sure, but America laughed uproariously.
The ad spawned a series of short films, and while it was a hit, questions have been raised over whether many viewers were aware the commercial was for Reebok.
2. “If You Hate Going to Work” (CareerBuilder, 2009)
The funniest commercial of the 2009 Super Bowl featured a repeating motif of different reasons why someone might look for a new job (“your coworkers don’t respect you,” “you always wish you were somewhere else,” “you daydream of punching small animals”).
The best part of the whole ad, another classic from Wieden+Kennedy, is the suit-clad boss walking by and exclaiming, “hey dummy.”
1. “Parisian Love” (Google, 2010)
It’s rare for a Super Bowl spot to evoke tears, but this 2010 spot did just that. And it came from a company, Google, which had rarely done any television advertising top to that time, and put it together in its Google Creative Lab, rather than use a big-time ad agency.
The idea was that the ad tells a story, in just 52 seconds, of a couple’s courtship, marriage, and new parenthood, and it does so only in Google searches. It’s a challenging gimmick, sure, but it’s one that the company pulled off flawlessly.