The 5 Best Super Bowl Ads Of All Time

By Fraser Gillies Published: 30 January, 2020 Last updated: February 17th, 2022 at 4:14 pm

super bowl american football game

Here we go again. It’s the big time, baby. 

Super Bowl LIV (54) is right around the corner.

I’m sure most of you will be stockpiling suds besides the TV or, if you’re lucky enough, gearing up to watch the real thing at Miami Gardens. However, we’re not going to get into the San Francisco 49ers defence or the Kansas City Chiefs offence. Far from it.

We wanted to take a look back on some of our favorite Super Bowl adverts. 

This year, the cost of running an ad during the Super Bowl will reach new heights. FOX is charging between $5.5 to $5.6 million for a 30-second advert. This is a huge leap from $4.5 million back in 2015

The long and short of it is this:

 A Super Bowl commercial slot costs around $187,000 a second!

However, despite this massive outlay, the audience size is staggering. Last year, almost 100 million people tuned into last year’s Super Bowl.

Today we’re going to assess some adverts that were successful, some that were unsuccessful. However, the qualifying factor is they are all well worth a watch. 

Anyway, let’s kick-off.

Terry Tate Office Linebacker (Reebok)

We start off with one of the most recognizable Super Bowl ads.

Reebok’s Terry Tate Office Linebacker dished out the pain train back in 2003. 

The commercial was so well received that Terry Tate’s character became part of a string of online TV shorts

Office Linebacker sets the scene of an unproductive office that inherits a fictional football player, Terry Tate. Terry dishes out punishment to employees not contributing to an effective work environment. Office Linebacker’s satirical take on office productivity seemed to really resonate with audiences. 

With that in mind, the commercial must have been a roaring success for Reebok? 

Not quite. 

Surprisingly, many viewers didn’t make the correlation between Office Linebacker and Reebok. The advert itself only mentioned Reebok twice and didn’t feature any Reebok products. Reebok did gain around 7 million in traffic, but only from people looking to download the short film.

We can look back and enjoy Reebok’s Terry Tate, but the $4.6 million outlay for the 60-second slot was not savvy spending. Remember kids, publicity for publicity’s sake is a good way to waste money.

Rocky – Budweiser

When thinking about half-time Super Bowl commercials, Budweiser is an institution. 

Its adverts have featured in over 40 Super Bowl games, and is for the most part, synonymous with American football’s most important event. 

Broadcast during the Super Bowl XLII (2008), the advert shows the Rocky film’s classic montage played out by a horse (yes, a literal horse). The horse trains hard, making the draft to pull the Budweiser carriage.

Rocky cost Budweiser around $2.7 million, which proved to be well worth the money. It won the 6th annual AOL Super Sunday Ad Poll, and Budweiser sales subsequently soared through the roof.

Beer and football go hand in hand, so getting the right exposure during the Super Bowl is almost inevitable for a company like Budweiser. However, commercial’s still need to entice the viewer, and Rocky’s charming film parody knew how to grab the viewers’ attention.

High Life! – Miller

Continuing with brews, Miller’s High Life made a big splash over a short period of time.

Just one second, to be precise. 

‘High Life!’ was as much a sly dig at arch-rivals Budweiser spending $3 million for a 30-second commercial.

Miller has often been seen as Budweiser’s noisy neighbor in terms of branding and advertising. Typically dwarfing in sales in comparison with Budweiser, Miller managed to hit back with a slick commercial that saw sales increase by 9%.

High Life! Is the perfect example of how the simplest ideas are the best. Adverts don’t need to be complicated. It can be to the point, and High Life! demonstrated this with this outside-the-box advert. 

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like – Old Spice

“Look at your man. Now to me…. Sadly, he isn’t me.”

Old Spice’s canny parody of traditional advertising methods was immediately iconic.

Actor Isaiah Mustafa’s kooky non-sequitur at the end of the commercial “I’m on a horse” made Old Spice’s advert particularly popular with younger generations. 

Kids seem to love random references to things.

The Man Your Man Could Smell Like went viral after showing at the Super Bowl XLIV (2010). It was viewed almost 6 million times (more than Obama’s inauguration speech) in the first 24 hours of its release on YouTube. 

To date, it has over 57 million Youtube views and has had 100s of online imitation videos. Old Spice’s ad did wonders for its brand and ultimately its sales. 

In fact, sales rocketed by 107% four months after the advert’s initial airing. 

Loretta – Google

If this doesn’t tug at your heart strings, you probably need to check-in with your doctor. 

Due to be aired at this Super Bowl, Google’s advert Loretta, paints a poignant yet bleak picture of the future. 

The narrator, presumably burdened with old age and an ageing mind, tries to remember traits of his (again, presumed) deceased wife Loretta. The narrator tells Google to show him pictures of Loretta and asks Google to remember parts of Loretta for him.

The message is that Google wants to help you avoid forgetfulness by utilizing its sophisticated AI technology. Yet the example is so heart-breaking, the audience is moved to hear an even deeper message: 

The effects of Loretta to Google as a business aren’t known yet, but what’s sure is that the powerful message of this commercial will have plenty of people sobbing into their chip and dip come game day.


Fraser Gillies

Fraser has been working in the digital communications space for four years. Currently the Head of Revenue at Publicize, he is leading a team of talented content creators to build powerful tech narratives that engage, educate and entertain audiences.