For decades, the Super Bowl has not only been one of the biggest sports events of the year, but also one of the biggest marketing events of the year. Every year, it seems like ad space during the game is at more of a premium (and more expensive) than the last. Currently, mere 30-second commercial spots during the big game can sell to eager companies for several million dollars. After all, every company and brand wants to create that one commercial that everyone was talking about the day after the big game.
Super Bowl ads have the potential for a longer shelf life beyond just a 30 or 60 second spot during the game. Many of the commercials are instantly shared and talked about online. Recognizing this new, more social way of drawing attention to products and ads, several years ago companies started to make their Super Bowl campaigns more extensive with tie-ins on social media by including corresponding hashtags and putting extended cuts of the television advertisements online. In short, coming up with a commercial that has the potential to go viral online has become just as important, if not more important, than the ad making an impression during the mere 30-second televised ad space during the game.
Some commercials have stood out from the rest and have continued to be shared online long after the game was finished. From newer ad campaigns that have emerged from the “viral” era of advertising, as well as old, beloved ads that have been uploaded and continue to be extensively shared online, the following 11 ads are among some of the most-shared, most watched Super Bowl advertisements of all time.
11. Volkswagen’s “The Force”
In 2011, Volkswagen’s commercial for the Passat received lots of attention after it aired during the Super Bowl as well as online. The ad, featuring a young child dressed up as Darth Vader, is said to be one of the most popular and most shared Super Bowl commercials ever. In the ad, as Star Wars music plays in the background, the kid pretends to be Darth Vader as he marches through his home using “the Force.” He finally approaches the family car parked outdoors and is shocked when he thinks that he was able to start his father’s car with “the Force.” (His dad actually used the car’s keyless remote to start the vehicle.) To date, this charming advertisement has had over 60 million views on Youtube.
So much for waiting for the big game before an ad goes viral: Procter & Gamble have already made the hashtag #LikeAGirl go viral with a commercial they released online last June. With the ad, the company aimed to spark social change by redefining the phrase “like a girl” (as in, the insult “to throw like a girl”). The ad for the company’s Always brand has already received over 54 million views on YouTube, so the company is taking this tried and tested viral hit to the Super Bowl with a new televised ad spot based on the original during Super Bowl XLIX this year.
9. Apple’s “1984”
Who says that viral videos have to be brand new? Even though Apple’s “1984” commercial ran during the Super Bowl over 30 years ago, it continues to bask in a lot of attention and gains tons of views online. This commercial appeared on television only once, during the 1984 Super Bowl game.
8. Coke’s “Mean Joe Greene”
One of Coke’s most famous commercials of all time featured Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle, “Mean” Joe Greene. The commercial aired in 1979 during Super Bowl XIV, but continues to be shared across social media today because of its emotional impact. In the commercial, after a football game, a young fan offers the supposedly injured Greene a Coke. Greene grabs the bottle and drinks it all before turning and walking away, but then in a heartwarming touch, he turns, throws the kid his jersey and says, “hey kid, catch!” The ad has won awards and has even been considered to be one of the top commercials of all time, which also continues to drive its views online.
7. Oreo’s Blackout Tweet: “You can still dunk in the dark”
In 2013, everyone declared that Oreo cookies were the real “winners” of the Super Bowl after the cookie brand tweeted a massively successful picture of an Oreo that got tens of thousands of retweets on Twitter and thousands more “likes” on Facebook. During the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII, a power outage at the Superdome caused lights to go out for a half hour. During the pause in the game when bored spectators began to turn to social media and share their thoughts (and mockery) about the incident, Oreo cookies saw an opportunity for some serious marketing. They tweeted an ad with the phrase, “Power out? No problem: You can still dunk in the dark,” showing a dimly lit image of an Oreo cookie. The campaign has earned high praise for its responsiveness. The cookie company actually had a large social media team ready to respond to whatever happened online during the Super Bowl, which explains how they were able to react so quickly to the event.
6. E*Trade’s “Talking Baby”
Babies are always popular when it comes to viral videos and advertisements, so it is an obvious choice when companies to try to include them in their ads. E*Trade hit it off with the baby theme during the 2012 Super Bowl, when they featured a baby talking (with an adult voice) on a webcam about trading and investing. During the 2013 Super Bowl, the company’s “spokesman” baby returned with another advertisement on television was accompanied with corresponding Twitter, Facebook and YouTube updates.
5. Budweiser’s Clydesdale Horses’ Tribute to 9/11 Victims
Budweiser’s Clydesdale horses have been a mainstay of Super Bowl commercials for decades. However, one ad that stands out from the rest and resurfaces on social media every so often is their tribute to 9/11, which aired during Super Bowl XXXVI. An ad that only aired once, this emotional and simple commercial showed the famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses trotting towards New York City. While overlooking the city skyline, the entire team of horses bows in respect.
4. Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit”
In one of the most thought-provoking commercials in recent years, Chrysler put the city of Detroit, which was very hard-hit by the recession in the late 2000s, on center stage during their ad in the 2011 Super Bowl. It was poignant commercial during a time when the city had earned a bad reputation: many of the city’s car companies had recently received controversial government bailouts. In the commercial, the notoriously struggling city looked as sleek and as cool as the brand-new Chrysler that was driving through its streets in the ad, and even more importantly, the story that the deep, serious voiceover told stirred viewers’ emotions. Music by Eminem helped drive the intense emotional impact of the commercial, and since it aired, it has received over 17 million views online.
3. Budweiser’s “Whassup”
This was a “viral” ad before videos could even go viral on the Internet, thanks to its ability to spark an annoying catchphrase that stuck around for years. Budweiser’s “Whassup” became a “viral” catchphrase after it first debuted in an ad during Monday Night Football in 1999. It gained momentum when it was used in subsequent ads that ran during the Super Bowl. In the ad, men were calling each other on phones while watching a game. As conversation, they shouted “whassup” (a slur of “What’s up”) to each other. It inspired an entire generation to copy the catchphrase. The ad continues to be shared and watched online, currently enjoying over 4 million views on Youtube.
2. Doritos’ “Pug Attack”
In 2011, Doritos continued its annual “Crash the Super Bowl” contest, which allows viewers to vote for their favorite ad from several entrants placed online during the game. The most popular ad then airs during the company’s Super Bowl ad space. The winning commercial in 2011 featured a man teasing a pug dog with a Dorito (and its creator won a cool $1 million as a prize). That ad was widely considered to be one of the most popular of the year.
1. Budweiser’s “Puppy Love”
In 2014, Budweiser jumped on the puppy bandwagon and released its “Puppy Love” ad, featuring a Clydesdale horse and a cute puppy falling in love. The sentimental ad has received nearly 56 million views online since it aired during Super Bowl XLVIII. Other companies have since tried to copy the idea of this commercial and have not been as successful.