The Best Super Bowl Ads of All Time

Posted on Jan 26, 2023 by Kristin Hassel

From 2010-2022, the average cost of a commercial during the Super Bowl rose by roughly $4 million. Yet, companies seem almost happy to obtain an advertising spot, even with the hefty price tag.

You have to admit, Super Bowl ads have staying power every day ads don’t. But why? Get ready to take a look inside the annual commercials, as we discover the 10 all-time greatest ads to date and what made them memorable. We’ll even look at runtime and cost. 

Before you start watching our top recommendations, make sure you use PIA to stream the best Super Bowl ads.

Why Are Super Bowl Ads Such A Big Thing?

Aside from watching their favorite team win the ‘Big Game’, many people tune into the Super Bowl for the commercials. Big-name companies compete for the top advertising spot and usually bring popular celebrities along for the ride. Unlike the rest of the year, when sales are the main goal, companies primarily create Super Bowl commercials for entertainment

The key to creating the best Super Bowl ad is memorability. Companies use unique imagery, wacky situations, and heartfelt messages to make their ad stand out. Most are humorous but recently some companies have been creating inspirational or thought-provoking clips, more in line with the current atmosphere in the US. Bruce Horowitz, a writer for Time Magazine, wants to see more of this trend.

A truly great Super Bowl ad must tell a compelling story with a beginning, middle, and an unexpected ending that, more often than not, plucks the heartstrings.

Horowitz should know what works. Along with his editor at USA Today, he oversaw the creation of the Ad Meter. For 34 years, the Ad Meter has arguably been the authority on which commercials qualify as ‘the best Super Bowl ads’.

So, just how many spots are available, and what’s the average price of a commercial during the ‘Big Game’?

How Much Runtime Is Available?

The total time allotment for ads during the Super Bowl is only 50 minutes. Those 50 minutes are divided into 80-100 slots. Companies can purchase multiple slots to show longer ads, but the average ad during the game is only 30 seconds

Despite the small amount of time, companies pay millions of dollars per slot. But is the moniker ‘best Super Bowl ad’ worth the cost? Apparently, it is. In 2022, NBCUniversal sold out its in-game slots platform-wide, including NBC, Telemundo, and Peacock.

The Average Cost of a Super Bowl Ad

The average Super Bowl LVI ad cost $6.5 million – up $1 million dollars from 2021. Several ads also reached an all-time high, with companies paying $7 million for a measly 30-second slot. The cost may be staggering, but when a commercial is a hit, the revenue it generates can easily quadruple the company’s initial investment

For example, during the 1974’s Super Bowl, Master Lock premiered an ad showing one of its locks withstanding a shot from a high-power rifle without unlocking. Variations of the ad ran from 1974 through the mid-90s, during which time Master Locks sales increased by $165 million.

10 Best Super Bowl Commercials of All-Time

So who else hit the mark when it comes to Super Bowl ads? Let’s take a look at the all-time greatest Super Bowl ads and find out. Spoiler alert – Master Lock made the list.

Rating

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – These ads are memorable, have staying power, and spawned well-used catchphrases. They may also contain memorable actors/sports stars, but it isn’t a concrete rule. You’ll rarely see a top 10 Super Bowl list without this ad on it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Commercials in this category are memorable for their comedy, catchphrase, or the actors/sports personalities involved.

⭐⭐⭐ – These ads are more memorable due to the brands/celebrities involved in them, but aren’t as imaginative as 4 and 5-star commercials.

⭐⭐ – Super Bowl ads with moving/hilarious content, but not really a mainstream favorite.



Wendy’s – Where’s the Beef? (1984) 

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 30 seconds
98% bun and 2% burger, Clara isn’t having it! With her group of friends in tow, she asks the immortal question ‘Where’s the beef?’ This classic Wendy’s Super Bowl commercial spawned a catchphrase so memorable, people still use it today.

Master Lock – Shot Lock (1974) 

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 30 seconds

How do you test a lock for durability? Shoot through a Master Lock lock with a high-power rifle. This extremely short commercial was also incredibly effective. The Super Bowl VII commercial ran in multiple variations from 1974-1994.

Coca-Cola – Hey Kid, Catch (1980)

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 31 seconds

One kid gets the gift of a lifetime, and all it costs him is an ice-cold bottle of Coca-Cola. Imagine having Mean Joe Green give you his jersey circa 1980. Talk about winning the sports memorabilia lottery.

The initial ad was so good that Pepsi made a clever spin-off with David Beckham and a Juventus fan that became just as memorable as the initial commercial – we’ll add that in just for the laughs (and the awesome rivalry between the brands).

Budweiser – Wassup (1999)

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 1 minute, 2 seconds

Did you think Scary Movie invented the multi-phone ‘Wassup’ parody? Nope – the amusing one-word slang greeting first debuted in Budweiser’s 1999 Super Bowl ad. The drawn-out ‘Wassup’ between friends hilariously reminds us it isn’t about the quantity of the words in a conversation – it’s about the quality.

Apple – MacIntosh (1984) 

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 1 minute, 4 seconds

This dramatic intro to the MacIntosh computer had quite a dystopian feel. While the ad was hugely popular and helped drive sales, the computer itself didn’t deliver. Still, the huge sledgehammer being thrown into a screen remains in use on big and small screens – including an SNL sketch with Benedict Cumberbatch.

Volkswagen – The Force (2011)

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 1 minute, 4 seconds

Everyone knows how powerful The Force is, but only the strong can wield it. One kid sure tries their best in this Volkswagen ad. Clad in a Darth Vader costume, they go from room to room in the house trying to move everything from a doll to a dog with mysterious energy. 

Just as mini-Darth is about to give up, Dad comes home and parks his new Volkswagen in the driveway. Running to the car, the kid tries to wield the awesome power of The Force one last time and to their surprise, the car starts. We’ll just forget dad used the auto start function and let the kid dream.

Pepsi – Cindy Crawford (1992)

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 31 seconds

Few Super Bowl fans haven’t seen the iconic Pepsi commercial featuring Cindy Crawford. A cool car, dirt road, and arguably the era’s most well-known supermodel are all a recipe for successful advertising. The two young boys leaning on the fence make the commercial, commenting on ‘one good looking can of Pepsi’ because it’s not like a beautiful model is drinking it or anything.

Noxzema – Farrah Fawcett Creams Joe Namath (1974)

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 30 seconds

When you think of a football player, especially Joe Namath, getting creamed, you assume he’s on the field. Noxema’s 1974 ad takes a different approach, having Farah Fawcett cream Namath with their shaving cream and the tingle is ‘oooooh’ inspiring.

EDS – Cat Herders (2000) 

    Rating: ⭐⭐

Runtime: 1 minute, 1 second

Cat herding is a dangerous business and these cowboys take their job seriously. HP company Electronic Data Systems (EDS) is the brain behind this funny ad about doing the seemingly impossible. Fortunately, the commercial shows us nothing is impossible, even when it comes to herding notoriously finicky cats.

Doritos – Crystal Ball (2009)

    Rating: ⭐⭐

Runtime: 30 seconds

Snow globe, crystal ball – it’s all the same. At least it is if you like Doritos and mayhem. This employee’s successful prediction for free Doritos in the office is more due to outright vandalism than foreseeing the future. Honestly, you have to feel bad for the guy who tried to predict his climb up the corporate ladder using the same method.

Honorable Mentions in 3 Popular Categories

You’ve seen the best Super Bowl commercials of the past six decades. Now discover some funny, heartwarming, and thought-provoking ads.

Category 1 – The Funniest

Snickers – Betty White (2010)

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 31 seconds

Don’t mess with Betty White or someone who plays football like her. After all, she was the queen of one-line zingers for decades. Luckily all the player needs to get his game back is a snickers break. Face it, none of us are ourselves when we get hangry.

Doritos – Push It (2022)

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 1 minute, 1 second

Animals spicing up their lives with Doritos and singing Salt ‘N’ Pepa? Yes, please! Between the sloth snatching the Doritos and a fox busting a move, this is definitely one of the funniest Super Bowl ads of 2022.

Bridgestone – Karma (2011)

    Rating: ⭐⭐

Runtime: 31 seconds

Karma pays you back when you least expect it. Saving the life of another, or a beaver in the case of this 2022 Super Bowl ad, can save you later. The best part is the ‘I got you’ hand gesture between the driver and the beaver at the end.

Category 2 – Heartwarming

Chrysler – It’s Half-Time America (2012)

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 2 minutes, 1 second

America has had more than a few ups and downs over the past 20 years and, for some, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Chrysler’s Super Bowl ad featuring Clint Eastwood reminds us hard times come and go, but we always band together to get through them.

Budweiser – Lost Dog (2015)

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 1 minute, 1 second

A lost pet always tugs at the heartstrings – especially a cute puppy. One jump into the wrong trailer lands a yellow lab puppy in trouble. He finally manages to make it back home, but not without getting an assist at the last minute from the Budweiser Clydesdales.

Chevy – Find New Roads (2014)

    Rating: ⭐⭐

Runtime: 1 minute, 49 seconds

You may need to grab some tissues – Chevy’s heart-wrenching 2014 ad is emotionally charged. A father and son pack up what’s left of their life after losing a wife and mother. Some changes are devastating, but it’s important to remember what we still have and move forward.

Category 3 – Thought-Provoking

Monster.com – When I Grow Up (1999)

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 31 seconds

Be honest, how many of you thought you’d have the job you have now when you were a kid? Monster.com’s Super Bowl commercial painfully points out the compromises we make as an adult when it comes to our careers. The treatment and behavior we tolerate or display as adults seem ridiculous as a child’s dream job.

Expedia – Stuff (2022)

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Runtime: 30 seconds

Aside from featuring the talented Ewan McGregor bringing star power to Expedia’s Super Bowl ad for 2022, the brief ad packs a meaningful message in a short period. Life’s too short to focus on things you can’t take with you when you go – have an unforgettable adventure instead.

Toyota – Jessica Long (2021)

    Rating: ⭐⭐

Runtime: 1 minute, 1 second

The power of love, kindness, and hope can yield some fantastic results. Toyota gives everyone a reason to keep striving for their best despite obstacles. Jessica Long is a testament to how far you can go when you refuse to give up.

Enjoy the Best Super Bowl Ads Uninterrupted 

Do you agree with our picks for the top 10 best Super Bowl ads of all time? With so many to choose from, picking the best wasn’t easy. So many good Super Bowl commercials didn’t make the cut, so we recommend browsing YouTube for a few more hidden gems. Just make sure you don’t let slow speeds ruin the fun.
Enjoy all the NFL has to offer buffer-free with PIA, including what makes Super Bowl ads such a must-see event. Our 10 Gbps servers offer lightning-fast streaming speeds.

FAQ

Is it worth attending the Super Bowl live?

Maybe. It depends on your budget and how big of a fan you are. A single ticket can cost anywhere from $937 to $11,500 and doesn’t include the price of travel, lodging, food, or memorabilia. 

If you’re not into big-time spending and crowds, you can always watch all the Super Bowl ads with PIA VPN from the comfort of your couch. Just connect to one of our lightning-fast NextGen servers in your state to get buffer-free Super Bowl action.

What are the top 5 best commercials of Super Bowl 2022?

According to Today, the top 5 Super Bowl ads of 2022 came from Toyota, FTX, NBC, Rocket Mortgage, and T-Mobile.

See our pick for the 10 best Super Bowl commercials from 1974-2022, and let us know what your favorites are in the comments.

How much does a Super Bowl ad cost?

The average cost of a 30-second Super Bowl ad in 2022 was $6.5 million, with several companies reaching up to $7 million. With the high price tag, we can all be thankful we only have to watch the commercials. 

Live stream all things NFL with PIA VPN. When you subscribe, you get a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try our lightning-fast servers risk-free for a limited time.