Our Favorite Food and Beverage Super Bowl Commercials

Our Favorite Food and Beverage Super Bowl Commercials

Nothing serves up more excitement than the Super Bowl — except maybe Super Bowl commercials. The Big Game is undoubtedly the biggest stage for food and beverage brands to showcase their boldest, most brilliant commercials — creative concepts so ambitious and impactful, they can become iconic game-changers in a super competitive playing field. 

Last year, the Super Bowl scored a record-breaking 200 million viewers — 60% of all people in the United States, according to Nielsen. As one of the few television events to score such a wide-ranging audience, the Big Game more than warrants its big price tag for advertisers, with an average cost of $7 million for a 30-second commercial. As Paul Ballew, chief data and analytics officer for the NFL, put it: “The Super Bowl is singular across the television and media landscape not only in its unparalleled viewership but because it is largely watched in group settings.” 

Eagerly anticipated commercials have become a defining dimension of the Super Bowl viewing experience. About 75% of people who planned to watch the game expressed excitement about the ads. 

A feast of food and beverage commercials have fed the audience’s appetite for Super Bowl commercials over the years. We’ve assembled an all-star lineup of game-changing ads that stand out in the Super Bowl’s crowded intersection of food and marketing. 

Budweiser: “Wassup” (2000)

Over the years, the King of Beer established itself as the king of Super Bowl ads, outspending all other brands. The beer behemoth allocated a total of $470.5 million for Super Bowl commercials between the first Super Bowl in 1967 and Super Bowl LIV in 2020. Anheuser-Busch, Budweiser’s parent company, held exclusive rights as the game’s only alcohol advertiser from 1989 to 2023.

The brand poured on the creativity in an all-star roster of memorable spots, from Bud Bowls where Budweiser and Bud Light bottles competed in stop-action animation football games, to Bud Ice commercials featuring animatronic penguins crooning “Dooby Dooby Do” in suspenseful, noir-ish vignettes.  

But “Wassup” passed on special effects wizardry to score top points for its standout simplicity. 
Triggered by a phone call, a group of friends trade “Wassup” greetings as shorthand for the simple pleasure of kicking back with a Bud and watching the game. What’s up? The game and Budweiser. And that, as the closing line states, is “true.”

Why it’s a winner: Centered around a popular catchphrase, the ad’s true-to-life scenario gave it irresistible viral appeal.

Key takeaway: Simple can stand out and a catchphrase can catch on in the crowded playing field of Super Bowl advertising.

Coca-Cola: “Hey Kid, Catch” (1979)

Who would have thought that such a tough sport could give us such a tender moment? After an especially rough game, legendary defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene hobbles into the stadium tunnel where a little boy asks if he needs any help. The boy expresses his hero worship of the dejected Greene, then offers the limping legend his ice-cold Coke to console him. Greene reluctantly accepts, downs the Coke and returns the favor by tossing his jersey to the awestruck little guy with a “Hey kid, catch!” The pitch-perfect closing tagline: “Have a Coke and a smile.”

Why it’s a winner: The spot is a brilliantly simple display of surprise and delight, teaming up one the most fearsome football players with an adorable little boy for a touchdown of touchy-feeliness. 

Key takeaway: Warm hearts to pile up points on the scoreboard of history’s hottest Super Bowl commercials.

Snickers: “Betty White for Snickers” (2010)

There are armchair warriors, and then there are the guys who get together to play a not-so-friendly game of tackle football, minus the skills and pads of the pros. In this spot, that lovable icon of gray-haired gumption Betty White gets leveled before she can catch a pass. Muddied but with her signature moxie intact, she returns to the huddle where it’s revealed that she’s really “Mike,” a guy who gets upbraided for “playing like Betty White out there.” She claps back with “That’s not what your girlfriend says.” But all it takes is a Snickers bar to transform Mike back into a sprightly young man. Problem is, now the quarterback who fades back to pass him the ball turns into the iconic sad sack Abe Vigoda and gets flattened. “That hurts,” he says. Clearly he needs a Snickers.

Why it’s a winner: A clever comedic twist dramatizes the brand’s closing value prop: “You’re not you when you’re hungry. Snickers satisfies.” As for Betty White and Abe Vigoda as the geriatric football foils — touchdown, Snickers.

Key takeaway: Belly laughs triggered by sudden turns of events can satisfy a ravenous hunger for humor during Super Bowl commercial breaks.

Gatorade: “23 vs. 39” (2003)

Michael Jordan’s prowess on the basketball court was certainly super — so much so, that he needed a younger version of himself to give himself some competition in this Super Bowl commercial. Through the magic of visual effects, 39-year-old Jordan plays a high-flying game of one-on-one against his 23-year-old self. The dueling doubles slam dunk, swirl and swish, with the younger Jordan gaining the upper hand (“Had enough?”), only to be schooled by the older Jordan (“You reach, I teach”). The two Jordans take a break to recharge with a Gatorade when Jordan as a college player appears and asks, “Who’s next?” “Get your young ass out there,” the elder Jordan tells his 23-year-old self.  As the tagline asks, the big question for the Jordans and regular Joes of the world is, “Is it in you?

Why it’s a winner:  Having three versions of Michael Jordan at different life stages dramatize his evolution is an ingenious way to express Gatorade’s value prop that it powers the GOAT in all of us.

Key takeaway: Why have one Michael Jordan in your Super Bowl commercial when you can have three of him?

Tabasco: “Mosquito” (1997)

No words wasted. In fact, not a word is uttered in this spot, where a Tabasco-loving guy sitting outside on a sweltering summer night is enjoying a slice of pizza that he spices up with the hot sauce. A chirping chorus of crickets is interrupted by the sound of a mosquito that lands on his leg for a bite of its own. The mosquito flies away and explodes in midair. Such is the power of Tabasco.

Why it’s a winner: The super tight focus of the spot holds the audience’s attention in rapt anticipation of the climax — the perfect metaphor for the explosion of flavor in every drop of Tabasco.

Key takeaway: Concentration, anticipation and culmination are the ingredients for the secret sauce that makes “Mosquito” a classic.

Wendy's: “Where's the Beef?” (1984)

It’s the spot with tons of viral appeal before going viral was a thing. This icon of ’80s advertising scored big with Super Bowl fans and beyond with its simple setup of three lovable grandma figures hilariously marveling at a large bun that concealed a tiny hamburger patty.  When they open the bun and see the measly meat, one feisty grandma exclaims: “Where’s the beef?” A voice over explains how Wendy’s gives people “more beef and less bun” than the shortchanging competition. 

Why it’s a winner: The ad was way ahead of its time for its buzzword-driven, meme-worthy virality (imagine #wheresthebeef). Suffice it to say “Where’s the beef?” caught on like wildfire through word-of-mouth and the mass media of the day.

Key takeaway: Get to the meat of the matter with an endearingly humorous spin centered on an infectiously memorable catchphrase. 

Dorito's: “Keep Your Hands Off My Doritos” (2010)

Taking candy from a baby may be easy, but taking Doritos from one — no way. When an eager suitor comes to pick up his date, she leaves him alone for a minute with her super cute son, who winds up being a fierce defender of his mom — and his Doritos. In fact, the little man smacks the swagger out of the guy and issues a stern warning: “Keep your hands off my mama. Keep your hands off my Doritos.” He loves them both, and we can’t blame him!

Why it’s a winner: Cute. Funny. The perfect tension breaker during commercial breaks. But more than that, the ad uses an unexpected slap to shock us into brand awareness with a chuckle. 

Key takeaway: The little guy wasn’t playin’, proving his point (and the brand’s) by connecting his love of his mother with his love of Doritos. What better brand validation could there be in a mere 34 seconds of air time?

Coca-Cola: “Hilltop” (1971)

In an iconic commercial that transcended mere advertising to celebrate our common humanity, young people from all around the world assemble on a hilltop in Italy, where they sing a jingle that captures the universal longing for peace and love. They form a gorgeous mosaic of humanity — and they all would “like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.” Coke, after all, is the real thing — and the brand’s message of our connectedness rings true. The spot became such a cultural touchstone, even Don Draper, the creative firebrand at the heart of the Mad Men TV series, tried to take credit for it. 

Why it’s a winner: Harmony — need we say more? The international mix of young people sing in harmony and express a harmony for which the world thirsts. Connecting that longed-for harmony with buying the world a coke was the real thing — advertising genius.

Key takeaway: Nothing sells a brand better than connecting it to something bigger — in this case, the world itself and all the hope and harmony in every heart.

Budweiser: “9/11 Tribute” (2002)

Prepare to be deeply moved as the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales trot through a bucolic setting and pass through small town America, where a barber looks from a window in wonder at their majestic beauty. The Clydesdales stop in a green field against the backdrop of the New York City skyline, where the Statue of Liberty still stands tall, despite the catastrophe of 9/11. The elegant equines make a powerfully emotional and eloquent gesture, as they bow their heads in tribute to the victims of that disastrous day. 

Why it’s a winner: A work of cinematic brilliance, with a heart-stirring musical score and sweepingly beautiful shots, the spot connects us in collective grief and resolve through the Clydesdales’ pilgrimage. The mournful cortege culminates with the message: We will never forget. Unforgettable, indeed. 

Key takeaway: There are times a brand transcends the marketplace and wins a place in people’s hearts. This is one of them. And this year, the Clydesdales will grace us once again with their return to Super Bowl commercial greatness. 

So there you have it — our picks for a few of the finest commercials Super Bowl fans ever feasted their eyes on.
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Topics: Marketing, Events


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