The top ten Super Bowl ads that captured our hearts and minds

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Super Bowl Sunday isn’t just a day for football; it’s the Oscars of advertising, where brands showcase their most innovative, touching, and often groundbreaking commercials. These ads do more than sell products; they tell stories, evoke emotions, and sometimes become a part of our cultural lexicon. Here’s a tribute to the ten Super Bowl ads that transcended the confines of the TV screen to leave a lasting impact on our hearts and society.

Super Bowl ads

Our ABCs approach to advertising

At Beloved Brands, we believe that advertising combines Branded Breakthrough (how you say it) and Moveable Messaging (what you say). Taking this one step further, the execution has to breaks through the clutter (Attention) and link closely to the brand name (Brand Link). The execution must communicate the main message (Communication) and makes the brand seem different (Stickiness)

Here are the top 10 Super Bowl ads of all time

1. Coca-Cola: "Hey Kid, Catch!" - Mean Joe Greene (1979)

In an era of simplicity and heartwarming narratives, Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl ad featuring Mean Joe Greene and a young fan redefined the power of storytelling in advertising. This ad didn’t just sell a beverage; it sold an emotion, a moment that remains etched in the hearts of those who witnessed it, proving that kindness and humanity can leave a more profound impact than the most elaborate sales pitch. This is one of the first Super Bowl ads. 

To illustrate, click on any video controls. Use the arrow. Increase the size. Or, change the volume. 

2. Apple: "1984"

Apple’s “1984” introduced the Macintosh computer and revolutionized Super Bowl advertising. Directed by Ridley Scott, this ad was a cinematic masterpiece that leveraged its David vs. Goliath narrative to position Apple as the harbinger of change in a technology landscape dominated by giants. It was bold, rebellious, and perfectly encapsulated Apple’s ethos, setting the stage for the brand’s future. Marketers seem to forget that 1984 was a Super Bowl ad. Have a look below. 

To illustrate, click on any video controls. Use the arrow. Increase the size. Or, change the volume. 

3. McDonald's: "The Showdown" - Michael Jordan vs. Larry Bird (1993)

What happens when you pit two of basketball’s greatest legends against each other for a Big Mac? You get an ad that’s as entertaining as it is memorable. “The Showdown” wasn’t just an ad; it was a cultural moment that celebrated sportsmanship, competition, and McDonald’s, embedding the phrase “nothing but net” into the lexicon of basketball and beyond. How many of us threw something into a garbage can and said, “Nothing but net.” Now you know it comes from a McDonald’s Super Bowl ad. 

To illustrate, click on any video controls. Use the arrow. Increase the size. Or, change the volume. 

4. Pepsi: Cindy Crawford (1992)

In 1992, Pepsi gave us more than just a glimpse of its new can design; it presented an iconic moment with Cindy Crawford at the helm, seamlessly blending fashion, sex appeal, and humor. This Super Bowl ad was a testament to Pepsi’s understanding of pop culture and its ability to tap into the zeitgeist in a way that felt both effortless and electric.

To illustrate, click on any video controls. Use the arrow. Increase the size. Or, change the volume. 

5. Budweiser: "Whassup?" (1999)

Before viral was a term du jour in marketing, Budweiser’s “Whassup?” ad captured the essence of friendship and shared moments over a beer. This Super Bowl ad’s simplicity and catchphrase turned it into a cultural phenomenon, showing that sometimes, the most straightforward ideas resonate the most.

To illustrate, click on any video controls. Use the arrow. Increase the size. Or, change the volume. 

6. Budweiser: 9/11 Tribute (2002)

Even after all these years, this Super Bowl ad might bring a tear to your eye. Months after the tragedy of 9/11, this Super Bowl ad takes the American icons of Budweiser and the Clydesdales marching through the streets of America and gives a nice salute to NYC. High on Attention, with deep emotions, strong Brand cues, and the storytelling aided the Communication. Even though it was only shown once, it is high on stickiness as it brings back those emotions.

This Super Bowl ad demonstrated how brands could play a role in healing, offering a moment of solidarity and respect that transcended traditional advertising.

To illustrate, click on any video controls. Use the arrow. Increase the size. Or, change the volume. 

7. Google: "Parisian Love" (2010)

Google’s “Parisian Love” Super Bowl ad was a beautifully understated demonstration of the search engine’s role in our lives. Through a series of searches, it told a love story that spanned continents, showcasing Google’s impact on our personal stories in a way that felt both intimate and universal.

To illustrate, click on any video controls. Use the arrow. Increase the size. Or, change the volume. 

8. Snickers: "You're not you when you're hungry" - Betty White (2010)

Snickers took its “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign to new heights with this Super Bowl ad, leveraging Betty White’s comedic genius to highlight the transformative power of a Snickers bar. The ad was a perfect blend of humor, nostalgia, and brand messaging that revitalized the Snickers brand for a new generation.

To illustrate, click on any video controls. Use the arrow. Increase the size. Or, change the volume. 

9. Tide: "It's a Tide Ad" (2018)

With “It’s a Tide Ad,” Tide executed a meta-commentary on advertising itself, cleverly inserting its brand into every conceivable ad genre to highlight the product’s effectiveness. It was smart, funny, and a refreshing departure from the norm, proving that innovation can come in unexpected forms.

To illustrate, click on any video controls. Use the arrow. Increase the size. Or, change the volume. 

Ram Farmer 2013

It’s one of my favorite Super Bowl ads of all time, and it takes such a huge artistic risk by launching such a quiet ad that tugs at the heart when most other brands are doing slapstick ads. Narrated by the iconic voice of Paul Harvey, Ram Trucks’ “Farmer” ad was a stirring tribute to the hardworking farmers of America. Its heartfelt message and powerful imagery underscored the brand’s commitment to resilience, hard work, and the American spirit.

To illustrate, click on any video controls. Use the arrow. Increase the size. Or, change the volume. 

The legacy of the best Super Bowl Ads

These Super Bowl ads remind us that, at its best, advertising can inspire, entertain, and connect with us on a deeply human level. They’re not just selling products; they’re telling stories and evoking emotions, leaving a legacy far beyond the 30-second spots they occupy. 

As we look forward to future Super Bowls and the ads they’ll bring, we celebrate the creativity, the innovation, and the impact of these unforgettable moments in advertising history.

Always push to find ads that are different and smart

The best advertising must balance being creatively different and strategically smart. 

When ads are smart but not different, they get lost in the clutter. It is natural for marketers to tense up when the creative work ends up being “too different.” In all parts of the business, marketers are trained to look for past proof as a sign something will work. However, when it comes to advertising if the ads start too similar to what other brands have already done, then the advertising will be at risk of boring your consumers, so you never stand out enough to capture their attention. Push your comfort with creativity and take a chance to ensure your ad breaks through. 

When ads are different but not smart, they will entertain consumers, but do nothing for your brand. Your advertising must be smart enough to trigger the desired consumer response to match your brand strategy.

Learn about brand positioning

To find your ideal brand positioning statement, you want to find the space that is most motivating to consumers. And, find the space that is most ownable for your brand. Our brand positioning statement process starts with a defined consumer target your brand will serve. Then, we focus on the emotional and functional benefits that differentiate your brand. Further, we use support points to help differentiate your brand from competitors.

Learn about marketing plans

A strategic marketing plan gets everyone on the same page, including senior management, sales, product development, customer service and your agency partners. So, we have a one-page brand plan to help. That way, everyone drives against the same vision, key issues, strategies, and tactics. Throughout this article, I will show how to write a marketing plan, with a few marketing plan examples. And, we have a marketing plan template you can purchase. 

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Graham Robertson

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