Every year, millions of people tune in to watch one of the world’s biggest sporting events—the Super Bowl.

But for many, the Super Bowl is more than just football. It’s about over-the-top half-time shows and especially, the commercials.

Did you know that the average price of a 30-second Super Bowl ad is $5 million?

That’s a pretty high price to pay for someone’s attention span. Yet people still pay big bucks every year because it works. 

Take Budweiser for instance. Last year, the beer brand increased their social engagement by almost 606% after launching Born The Hard Way. So $5 million (or more) might not be such a steep price to pay after all.

But Budweiser aren’t the only winners. Here’s 16 brands that gambled on the ad world’s most cherished time slot and came out on top.

1. Apple, 1984

It was designed to have a life beyond the Super Bowl. That becomes almost part of the legend: Oh, the genius of just running it once on the Super Bowl.

Lee Clow, creative director at ChiatDay

2. Coca-Cola, Mean Joe Greene (1979)

The ad was praised by people from all walks of life—not just football fans—who were touched by its heartwarming message.

Jay Moye, editor-in-chief at Coca-Cola

3. Nike, Michael Jordan & Bugs Bunny (1992)

Each is an iconic figure and legend in his own right, but together Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan are an unbeatable combination on and off the court.

Brad Globe, president at Warner Bros. Consumer Products

4. Google, Parisian Love (2010)

The best results don’t show up in a search engine, they show up in your life.

Robert Wong, executive creative director at Google Creative Lab

5. Old Spice, The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (2010)

It quickly became a cultural phenomenon. We successfully found an execution that appealed to our core target (guys), but one that also allowed the brand to appeal for the first time to a female audience. We needed to keep that momentum going.

Britton Taylor, planner at W+K

6. Volkswagen, The Force (2011)

“What was just a bunch of 30-, 60-second TV commercials, everybody now has turned this into a full-on social media integrated play. I don’t look at Super Bowl ads as TV commercials. The Super Bowl is a social media and PR phenomenon that has a number of integrated components in which one is a TV commercial.”

Mike Sheldon, CEO of Deutsch North America

7. Dodge Ram, Farmer (2013)

“10 photographers capturing on their own terms the life of a farmer and rancher. All of us searching for meaningful images. Not any one photo rising above any others, but collectively voicing a message for folks and a vocation we have all really taken for granted. The last truly archetypical American worker.”

Andy Anderson, photographer for Farmer

8. Always, Like a Girl (2014)  

We set out to champion the girls who were the future of the brand. The hashtag was essential in rallying people to change the meaning of ‘like a girl’ by showing the world that it can mean amazing things.

Judy John, chief executive officer at Leo Burnett Canada

9. Go Pro, Red Bull Stratos (2014)  

The whole world is watching. I’m coming home now.

Felix Baumgartner, skydiver & daredevil

10. Budweiser, Puppy Love (2014)

“No matter what business you are in, I always remember about connecting on an emotional level. It is paramount when thinking about a customer’s needs. For example, understanding Budweiser’s customer demographics and whom they were trying to touch in their message made me do a better job.”

Don Jeanes, actor in Puppy Love

11. Snickers, You’re Not Yourself When You’re Hungry (2015)

The work was big, populist and famous, which got people talking about the brand.

James Miller, global head of strategy for Mars at BBDO

12. McDonald’s, Pay With Lovin’ (2015)

We’re on a journey of transformation and a key part of that journey is how we engage with our customers. Pay With Lovin’ is a direct way for us to engage with our customers. We believe that a little more lovin’ can change a lot.

Says Deborah Wahl, chief marketing officer at McDonald's USA

13. Colgate, #EveryDropCounts (2016)

Armed with a TV spot that won Cannes Lions, we began building a plan to leverage media in a unique way to raise awareness. The Super Bowl seemed like a perfect opportunity to gain mass awareness at a time when there is heightened adrenaline and emotions.

Maureen Meagher, account director at Red Fuse

14. Hyundai, First Date (2016)

On the biggest advertising day of the year, we wanted to entertain Super Bowl fans with creative storytelling and relevant, popular celebrities, while showcasing the innovative technology features of our vehicles.

Dean Evans, chief marketing officer at Hyundai Motor America

15. #Pokemon20, Pokémon (2016)

For 20 years, the Pokémon world has inspired fans to train hard and have fun. This ad is reflective of that passion, and I can’t think of a bigger stage to share this story than the Super Bowl.

J.C. Smith, senior director of Consumer Marketing at The Pokémon Company

16. Campbell’s, This One’s for Mom (2016)

We’ve told the story of the bond between mother and son before but we are taking the opportunity with this project to build something a bit more emotional.

Umang Shah, director, Global Digital Marketing & Innovation at Campbell's

Love ads? A few months ago we chatted with friends at brands like Buffer, Zapier and Outbrain to find out about their favorite ad campaigns.

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