Each year titans from the AFC and NFC meet to determine who the Super Bowl Champion will be. And each year, forlorn wives and lovers are forgotten for approximately three and a half hours. Luckily, the Super Bowl commercial really started to change all that a few decades ago and became entertainment in themselves. The commercial festivities have become almost as grandiose as the game, and have even served as a gateway drug in creating new fans. As a result, Life’d now celebrates the Top 50: Best Super Bowl Commercials (of All Time).
50. Sprint Crime Deterrent
It was the final season of Pittsburgh’s beloved running back Jerome Bettis, who along with the rest of the Steelers made good on their fifth Super Bowl championship over the Seattle Seahawks 21-10. It was also the 40th Super Bowl in the history of the NFL. To commemorate the momentous occasion, Sprint advertised its new “Crime Deterrent” phone. The commercial depicts two guys in what appears to be a gym locker room bragging about their phones. We learn that Sprint’s can access live TV, wireless music downloads, and email. It also has one feature that the other guy just can’t compete with. “Just try to steal my phone.” In addition to demonstrating the phone’s durability, the commercial also relies on good old slapstick violence to pull a chuckle from us every time.
49. Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo
Ridley Scott was at it again in this popular commercial from the 1990 Super Bowl depicting the 300ZX in a series of contests with other conveyances – motorcycle, race car, jet fighter plane. Guess who won. Aside from the commercial being a tad hyperbolic – a 300ZX Twin Turbo beats a jet fighter plane? Yeah, okay – it also came under pretty heavy fire for glorifying reckless driving. As a result, it aired only one time. Nevertheless, we’ve included it here because it is an exciting piece of filmmaking not unlike Scott’s 1989 hit Black Rain or his 1991 follow-up Thelma and Louise, both movies that weren’t afraid to get down and dirty with some vehicular mayhem. As for the game that year – largely forgettable, especially for Denver fans, who witnessed a brutal 55-10 arse-kicking at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.
48. Footlocker Future Sport
John Elway probably wished he was playing the game in this commercial instead of the one at the 1987 Super Bowl in which the New York Giants dismantled his hapless Denver Broncos 39-20. Inevitably some things stick in your mind, and no matter how old you get, they never go away. That was the case with this nostalgic Rollerball ripoff from Super Bowl XXI that nevertheless does a fine job of advertising the Footlocker brand. Launched as part of the “Get It Right for Your Body” campaign, this 30-second spot sends the message that sports may change, but you’ll always need a product like the one the company delivers, and when those changes come, Footlocker will be there giving you exactly what you need. No laughs here, but we sure would like to see someone organize a game like the one in the commercial. We’ve been to the moon. We have phones that can talk to us. Scientists expect to find an earth-like planet this year. The time is right. The Footlocker ad shows right after the Bud ad.
47. Jacko Energizer Train
Some commercials work because they focus on the product, while others are able to register due to the sheer energy of the execution. Energizer found a combination that did both in the Jacko Energizer Train commercial that features Mark “Jacko” Jackson, who enters from the back of the train and resoundingly takes over. In just 30 seconds Jackson burned an instantly recognizable symbol of the Energizer product into the brains of anyone who was watching the 1988 Super Bowl. Jacko soon became a household name and even forced his way into the short-lived “Highwayman” TV show in a recurring role as the title character’s sidekick. Unfortunately for Jacko, the show wasn’t as much of a success as the advertising campaign. It ran nine episodes.
46. Chrysler Imported from Detroit
Chrysler’s last two Super Bowl ads have been somewhat braggadocious, and the American people seem to be eating them up. Most recently, the Clint Eastwood-narrated “Halftime in America” ad – featured in this listing – scored, but prior to that, this Eminem-starring spot from Super Bowl XLV was the hot commercial talk at Monday morning water coolers across the country. The 2-minute ad, which cost the company about $12 million just to air – keeping in mind that the 30-second spot time in 2011 was a staggering $3 million – manages to hold your interest for the entire runtime. We don’t know any other way to describe the narration other than “hard-boiled,” like the city itself. What does a city as blue-collar as Detroit know about luxury? Once they start telling you, it’s hard to argue. More hyper-local than the Eastwood ad, but nonetheless effective.
45. Audi Green Police
A stellar fourth quarter propelled the New Orleans Saints to their first and only Super Bowl victory at XLIV in 2010. The 31-17 win was no small feat for quarterback Drew Brees, who was dueling against one of the all-time greats in Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts. However, if you’re the type, who enjoys the commercials more than the game – ladies – then you were probably more drawn to the Green Police promo from Audi. While some folks may find this scary, the situations and the actors sell this “green police state” well. A man is arrested for choosing plastic at the store. A police officer pours out two bottles of water – “What do you think of plastic now, kids?” And then, of course, the comical hot-tub ending. Okay, maybe it was a little terrifying. Still didn’t stop Wall Street Journal users from voting it the No. 1 commercial for 2010’s big game.
44. Pepsi We Will Rock You
Normally we don’t condone the vocal abilities of Britney Spears, but when you mix her with Beyonce and Pink, and give all three lovely ladies one of Queen’s most infectious rock anthems to perform inside a gladiator coliseum, while placing said ladies in some of the sexiest attire imaginable, well, all is forgiven. Pepsi aired this spot at the 2000 Super Bowl, a victory for the Rams against the Tennessee Titans. Best Picture Winner Gladiator was still fresh on the brain at the time, which we’re sure was the inspiration for this spot and for the ad’s bad guy (Enrique Iglesias), who reminds us of the film’s baddie Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). This one’s a little long, and if you’re watching it around any special females, you might hesitate. These divas never looked so good.
43. Diet Coke Out on a Ledge with Demi Moore
Ah this brings back memories. The year was 1988, and we had a tendency to pay more attention to that year’s Super Bowl commercials because John Elway and the Denver Broncos were in the process of getting destroyed for a second year in a row – previously against the New York Giants and this time, the Washington Redskins. One of the advertising standouts was Demi Moore’s Diet Coke ad. Ms. Moore reminds us here that there was a time when she was America’s Sweetheart rather than a cougar lady who got dumped by a bad actor 16 years her junior. The setup is that Moore, playing “Sophisticated Lady,” loses a handle on her Diet Coke and must then risk life and limb to get it. For Young Moore we might have been out on that ledge ourselves.
42. Budweiser Clydesdales Donkey
We’ve always loved the underdog, or in this case the underdonkey. Budweiser released this Super Bowl spot during the 2004 contest between New England and Carolina. Same year as the Pepsi Bears, another classic you’ll find on this list, which tells us you can’t go wrong using cute animals in comical situations. The setup is this: narrator is a donkey, and all his life he’s dreamed of becoming one of the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. The commercial depicts a determined ass, who goes through a number of obstacles to make himself in to a Clydesdale: the Budweiser Pull, leg hair extensions, etc. But it’s not until the big interview that he really makes a compelling case. Hilarity and, yes, even a little sweetness ensue.
41. Pepsi Little Mafia Girl
From the famed advertising agency BBDO out of New York came this entry in Pepsi’s “Joy of Cola” campaign, which played during Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999. Produced the same year as the Cracker Jack Really Big Bag spot, Pepsi’s Little Mafia Girl channeled Marlon Brando and won our hearts in the process. The setup is this: little girl and grandfather walk in to a diner. She orders a Pepsi in her cute voice. She gets something that is clearly not Pepsi, and this leads to a Godfather moment with a funny payoff. Tony Soprano would be proud.