The History of Super Bowl Commercials

Beginning in the late 1970s — when Super Bowl advertisements cost only about $80,000 for a 30-second clip, to 2019 where ads ballooned to $5.2 million — the interest of the millions of viewers from around the world is piqued when tuning in to each break in the action of the most watched sporting event of the year.  Throughout this piece, it is important to examine the segments that have etched themselves into the memories of Super Bowls present and past.

Due to the plethora of Super Bowl commercials throughout the years, the top commercials will be organized by decade into Top 5s.


  1. ‘Noxzema With Farrah’; Aired in ‘73 (SB VII)
    1. The first Super Bowl was in ’67 and did feature ads that generated a lot of revenue for its time, but the NFL would not crack the multi million-dollar formula until seven years later. To induce nostalgia from the roots, the top spot goes to the Noxzema Shave Cream commercial that featured Farrah Fawcett, the typical beautiful celebrity, alongside the NFL Hall-of-Famer Joe Namath. It concludes with the legend quarterback saying, ‘you’ve got a great pair of hands,” as Fawcett touches his face after he uses the shaving cream.
  2. Hey Kid, Catch!’; Aired in ‘79 (SB XIV)
    1. Another NFL legend, ‘Mean’ Joe Greene was used in this one. It also featured the future child-star in the movie E.T., Henry Thomas. This ad even inspired a Television show.
  3. The Humbler’; Aired in ’70 (SB IV)
  4. Tough Under Fire’; Aired in ’74 (SB VIII)
  5. Neil Armstrong’; Aired in ‘79 (SB XIV)
    1. A decade after landing on the moon, Neil Armstrong starred in a Chrysler commercial as his knowledge of aerodynamics was on full display.


  1. ‘MacIntosh’; Aired ’84 (SB XVIII)
    • Apple debuts both their revolutionary product and advertising scheme in the MacIntosh computer commercial. Almost two decades after the first Super Bowl, the cost of Super Bowl commercials were up to half a million dollars.
  2. Diet Pepsi’; Aired in ’87 (SB XXI)
    • Michael J. Fox goes all out to acquire a thirst-quenching diet Pepsi for his neighbor. The beverage was dubbed ‘the choice of a new generation’.
  3. Double Features’; Aired in ’87 (SB XXI)
    • As a villainous taxi passenger laughs on, he bites on a value meal from what would become one of the largest fast-food franchises in the world – McDonald’s.
  4. Jay Leno – Dorito’; Aired in ’89 (SB XXIII)
  5. Polaroid’; Aired in ’81 (SB XV)


  1. ‘WWF’ Aired in ’99 (SB XXXII)
    • The WWF, or commonly known today as the WWE, makes its presence known on the football scene with a sarcastic pitch to convince people that the organization is non-violent and family friendly. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and the Undertaker feature in the clever ad that promotes the company amid its glory days.
  2. H-O-R-S-E With Michael Jordan and Larry Bird’ (SB XXVII)
    • Two of the greatest NBA players in history go toe-to-toe in a competition of trickery. Oh yeah… it’s for MJ’s Big Mac.
  3. Budweiser’; Aired in ’95 (SB XXIX)
    • One of the true cornerstones in Super Bowl advertising makes an instant classic in the 29th anniversary of football’s big game. Toad’s croak back-and-forth to eventually form an rhythmic Bud-weis-er hymn in a pitch-black swamp.
  4. Pepsi’; Aired in ’98 (SB XXXII)
    • The soda gives a red-headed man super-human ‘jet’ fuel to fly through the skies.
  5. Coke Guy Takes a Pepsi’; Aired in ’96 (SB XXX)
    • The feud was hot between the two soda juggernauts at this point. You could not like both, it had to be one or the other. Commercials had reached a million dollars per 30-second clip.


  1. ‘Brad Pitt’; Aired in ’05 (SB XXXIX)
    • This commercial may not have featured the same entertainment as the other top spots, but as the entire city chased the Hollywood actor around town, as he purchased beer, Pitt was well on his way to one of the easiest pay days in commercial history. Pitt earned $4 million for being on camera for under a minute and his clip was streamed for two more years after the release date outside America.
  2. Baby’; Aired in ’08 (SB XLII)
    • The E-Trade baby took the world by storm, myself included, as he explained a grown-up issue with pin-point expertise. Thought it was clear that it was a lip sync, the baby offered lightheartedness to the taxing process of buying stocks.
  3. Please Don’t Go’; Aired in ’00 (SB XXXIV)
    • This commercial created a special kind of empathy and amusement for pet lovers alike. The whole world abandoned their sidekicks. The puppet-like dog sung to his canine heart’s content to convince his owner to stay.
  4. Connecticle Dysfunction’; Aired in ’07 (SB XLI)
    • Sprint used the play on words to create a pharmacy-ad parody in its attempt to cure a ‘health’ problem.
  5. Squirrel’; Aired in ’08 (SB XLII)


  1. ‘Super Bowl Babies Choir’; Aired in ’16 (SB L)
    • Every NFL team that won a Super Bowl is pictured, including the adorable children in uniform singing alongside melodic adult voices. This is a personal favorite, due to the all-inclusive, fun-loving and joyous moment that is Super Bowl Sunday.
  2. Doritos’; Aired in ’10 (SB XLIV)
    • An adorable kid gets furious and protects home turf with his REJECTION. Two things we learned from this: keep your hands of his mama and keep your hands off his Doritos.
  3. Clydesdale’; Aired in ’13 (SB XLVII)
    • Budweiser returns as they tug on all the heart strings with this commercial. Anything with a horse, slowly-strung guitar and a comeback attempt can make someone smile.
  4. Hungry Betty White’; Aired in ’10 (SB XLIV)
    • The Snickers commercial pioneered a series of ads that showed two completely different forms a person. The post-Snicker consumption form compared to its contemporary became an instant classic.
  5. Touchdown Celebrations to Come’; Aired in ’18 (SB LII)
    • Odell and Eli’s dance act was not exactly the expectation of a new end-zone celebration. The nostalgia that was brought from Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ hit song really brought it it all together in this commercial.

There are certainly commercials that are not listed that may hold a special place in your heart. Regardless of what happens Sunday, Super Bowl LII will feature more creative and time-reflecting commercials than ever before, the hard part will be choosing which is best.

Evando Thompson can be reached at or on Twitter @Thompsev.