Every year since 1967, Americans have huddled around the television in hopes of watching a great football game. For those who aren’t sports enthusiasts, there’s still reason to tune in: the clever commercials that offer advertisers a chance to make us laugh, cry and, yes, buy stuff.
This year, the brands behind many of our favorite ads will be missing from the Super Bowl commercial lineup. Coca-Cola and Pepsi indicated that they have other advertising plans, while Budweiser said it is donating the money it would have spent on ads to coronavirus vaccination awareness.
Here are five Super Bowl commercials from the past that were especially successful in warming viewers’ hearts — and still do so today. Plus, watch a Super Bowl commercial from last year that we thought was an instant classic.
Coca-Cola: “Mean Joe Greene” (1980)
NFL star “Mean” Joe Greene turned out not to be so mean in this Coke commercial. Although it actually first aired in October 1979, it wasn't until its Super Bowl debut in 1980 that it gained widespread attention. Prepare for goose bumps.
Wendy's: “Where's the Beef?” (1984)
Character actress Clara Peller, then 81 years old, uttered the iconic catchphrase that still makes us smile nearly four decades later. That Peller's complaint to her two friends revolved around something as mundane as the disappointing size of a hamburger patty doesn't diminish the lasting cultural significance of the three words she uttered: “Where's the beef?"
McDonald's: “Mike's Story” (1991)
Everyone loves a tale about overcoming obstacles and finding success. That's what McDonald's portrayed in 1991 with “Mike's Story,” a touching reminder that anyone has the ability to achieve the best version of themselves. Grab the Kleenex.
Nike: “There Is No Finish Line” (1991)
Another commercial from 1991, this one from Nike took your average running sequence and combined it with inspiration, athleticism and heart. Through perseverance and a slick pair of shoes — Nike was selling a product, after all — there really is no finish line, the company wants you to believe.
Budweiser: “Puppy Love” (2014)
Budweiser has landed on a winning formula for tugging at viewers’ heartstrings: Mix adorable dogs with majestic horses. Success struck again six years ago with “Puppy Love,” a vignette that brought together an irresistible yellow Labrador puppy and an impressively maned steed — not to mention their human owners, too. Our tears are still drying.
Our Favorite Last Year: Google: “Loretta” (2020)
There is perhaps no greater loss than that of a longtime spouse. However, even when a loved one is gone, we always have memories to hang on to. In this commercial for the 2020 Super Bowl, Google uses voice technology to help a man reminisce about his wife, Loretta.
Editor’s note: This article, originally published Jan. 30, 2020, has been updated with new information.