The 10 best Super Bowl ads of all time

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

We have looked at all the Super Bowl Ads over the years, and used our ABC’s model to judge, which focuses on: Attention, Brand Link Communication, and Stickiness.

Brand leaders who are good at advertising can get great ads on the air and keep bad ads off the air.

You need to make decisions to find the sweet spot where your brand’s advertising is both different and smart. To be different, you need to achieve a branded breakthrough, using creativity to capture consumers. Gain their attention amid the market clutter and link your brand closer to the story. To be smart, you need a motivating message to communicate the main message memorable to connect with consumers, and make the ad stick enough to move them to see, think, feel, or act differently than before they saw the ad.

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 (Branding). 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

Coke: Mean Joe Greene 1979

Bit of that 1970s “cheese” for you, but I remember this one from my teens. Strong on communication through story-telling and enough cheesiness to make it stick. This spot is one of the first Super Bowl ads became as iconic as the drink itself.

Apple 1984

There’s a great story of this ad in the Steve Jobs book–how the board never wanted to run it and they lied about the media commitment. This was one of the first big Super Bowl ads, that changed the way advertisers saw the Super Bowl slots. Movie Quality of the filming does a great job in gaining Attention and Stickiness as it has stood the test of time for 30 years. A bit weak on communication, but that might have more to do with the lack of things to say about the product, so they led more with brand image and attitude as the core distinctiveness. Wonder why Apple doesn’t do Super Bowl ads now, as it seems like the perfect media choice for them.


McDonald's: Jordan/Bird, 1992

This Super Bowl ad had a lot of breakthrough and left us with the phrase “nothing but net”. With these two celebrities at their peak, it was high on attention, strong storytelling, pretty good branding and had some phrasing that had some stickiness for years in the basketball community.

Pepsi: Cindy Crawford 1992

Not much needs to be said about this one, other than that they repeated this 10 years later and she still looked the same. Definitely, attention-getting with a very simple message communication that helped drive brand link. Not a lot of stickiness for consumers, but honestly, it really is a promotional spot for a new can.

Budweiser Whazzup, 1999


I love the simplicity of this Super Bowl ad, but it really does capture a male-bonding insight of how guys do interact with their buddies. A hilarious ad was exceptional at Attention and certainly Stickiness as everyone was saying this phrase for a year. Didn’t really communicate much.

Budweiser 9/11 Tribute, 2002

Even after all these years, this one might bring a tear to your eye. Months after the tragedy of 9/11, this one 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 certainly the storytelling aided the Communication. Even though only shown once, high on Stickiness as it still really brings back those emotions.

Google: Paris 2009

The beautiful Super Bowl ad shows the power of Google as an enabling brand to your life. A great example of using quietness to drive Attention. The Branding is obviously incredible, but as it links nicely to the storytelling that Communicates how Google is part of everyone’s life. The emotional feelings certainly aid the Stickiness. This is one of the best ads I’ve ever seen.


Snicker's Betty White, 2010

Whatever Betty was paid, she’s made millions since because of this spot. Quickly after this one, the power of a Facebook page demanded that Betty host Saturday Night Live. A great little Super Bowl ad that was incredible on Attention and Stickiness. Communication is a Big Idea for the brand and kick-started a campaign that has lasted for years, even if Snickers has yet to fully capture in their pool outs on this campaign.

It's a Tide Ad, 2018

I never thought I’d list a Tide ad, but the media creativity Tide used really broke through and made us laugh. I started to think everything was a Tide ad.

Ram Farmer 2013

One of my fav ads of all time, and takes such a huge artistic risk by launching such a quiet ad that really tugs at the heart, when most other brands are doing slapstick ads. The shrill voice of Paul Harvey captures the Attention, especially against all the slapstick ads. The Communication of “Americana” comes through, and whether you’re a farmer or not, if you are a hard-working American, this should be your truck!!!

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.

smart different

This type of thinking can be found in our Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks

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