From Darth Vader to Melissa McCarthy to Justin Bieber, these stars scored major touchdowns for advertisers. Plus, what you should expect to see during the commercials at Sunday’s big game.
These ads are the highlight of the game.
Super Bowl commercials — broadcast in front of more than 100 million viewers each year — command as much as $5 million for a 30-second spot. And for many viewers, the ads are more important than football itself.
Indeed, a survey of 3,000 millennials and Gen Z-aged viewers conducted by news website The Tylt found that as many as 29% of respondents — almost one in three — watch specifically to take in the commercials, and could care less about the game.
What can viewers expect from the ads at the 52nd Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 4th, in Minneapolis, when the New England Patriots face off against the Philadelphia Eagles? “The ads are always a reflection of the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times,” says marketing professor Darrin Duber-Smith of the Metropolitan State University of Denver. That means that social issues will likely be popular ad topics, says marketing professor Miao Hu of the University of Hawaii Shidler College of Business.
“Just as last year became a time to address the themes and partisan politics that emerged during the US presidential campaign, this year we could see more brands using the investment to align themselves with social justice and uniting greater society — especially considering today’s focused lens on gender, race/ethnicity, disability, and LGBTQ+ equality,” says advertising mastermind Jeremy Schwartz of Truth Collective, who has behind the Super Bowl’s popular 2003 “Replay” ad for Budweiser.
That said, The Tylt’s research determined that a massive majority of survey respondents — nearly 85% — believe the commercials should avoid touching on political themes, and instead should stick to selling products.
As we count down to the upcoming game, Moneyish looked back at 10 of the most viral Super Bowl commercials in recent years.
1. Old Spice Body Wash ad, 2010: 54.9 million views
“Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice,” says former NFL wide receiver and actor Isaiah Mustafa in this ad for the popular men’s body wash. Mustafa proves just how alluring Old Spice can be by appearing in a rapid fire sequence of crazy scenarios: on a boat with a handful diamonds, randomly mounting a horse, and standing shirtless in a bathroom to name a few.
2. Audi’s #DriveProgress ad, 2017: 12.8 million views on YouTube
“What do I tell my daughter? Do I tell her that her grandpa is worth more than her grandma? That her dad is more than her mom?” asks a father while narrating this commercial on equal pay for equal work — a cause Audi supports.
3. NO MORE domestic violence ad, 2015: 10.1 million views
This chilling 60-second ad is the NFL’s first addressing sexual assault and domestic violence. It features the real audio of a terrified woman placing a phone call supposedly to order a delivery pizza — but in fact, she’s actually calling 911 for help.
4. Budweiser’s “Best Buds” ad, 2014: 4.2 million views
This doggone heartwarming spot features Clydesdale, a golden retriever puppy, befriending a horse on a farm — which doesn’t belong to its owner. Soon, dog and steed are inseparable. They’re #bestbuds.
5. Best Buy with Justin Bieber & Ozzy Osbourne ad, 2011: 3.8 million views
When it comes to gadgets, leave the tech to the kids. Struggling to promote a cell phone with 5G service in a fictional shoot for Best Buy, Osbourne quickly find himself swapped out for his younger counterpart, the Biebs. Sharon Osbourne makes a comical cameo.
6. Doritos “Ultrasound” ad, 2016: 1.76 million views
At an expecting mom’s ultrasound, a soon-to-be dad discovers the couple’s unborn baby has an affinity for Doritos — strong enough to induce premature labor.
7. Carl’s Jr. “All Natural Burger” ad, 2015: 858,000 views
Talk about going au naturel. Model and actress Charlotte McKinney bared it all — almost — for this provocative promo for fast food favorite Carl’s Jr.’s “All Natural Burger,” a burger featuring no added antibiotics, hormones, or steroids (supposedly as fast food first).
8. Taco Bell’s “Viva Mas” ad, 2013: 759,000 views
Prison break! Who let the retirees out? In this fun spot, age is just a number — and a gang of irreverent retirees sneaks out of their assisted living center for one wild night only. It’s a marathon that includes an impromptu pool party, a club rave, and a near-miss with the police.
9. Volkswagen’s “Darth Vader” ad, 2011: 737,000 views
Here, a pint-sized Darth Vader, dark lord of the Sith, stalks around the house trying to wield Force powers he doesn’t possess. Yet somehow, he manages to “make” his dad’s Volkswagen Passat rev its engines.
10. Kia K900 “Matrix” ad, 2014: 578,000 views
Laurence Fishburne reprises his signature role of Morpheus in the hit film franchise “The Matrix” in this Kia commercial, challenging two passengers to surrender all their notions about luxury in favor of a more unorthodox, sci-fi-inspired driving experience.
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