If you’re interested in what experts say are the top five Super Bowl ads in history, you’ll want to check out a previous edition of Leaderhelps Fives.
This edition counts down the top five ads that represented something beyond an artful attempt at marketing. These are the top five Super Bowl ads that address values, meaning or purpose on some level.
#5. Budweiser - We'll Never Forget
Note: I realize the harm that alcohol does to many families every minute of every day. I thought about that before adding this one to the list. I ended up including it (albeit at the last spot) because of its powerful message and because it really doesn’t overtly attempt to sell any beer from my perspective and it only aired once. If its inclusion on the list is offensive to you, please accept my apology. I understand completely. It was just so powerful I couldn’t leave it off the list.
The Year: 2002 – The New England Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams 20–17.
The Story: A powerful 9/11 tribute, the ad only aired once, during the second quarter of the game. (Although Budweiser did produce a 10th anniversary edition for the 2011 game.) It was a remarkably poignant and timely tribute, connecting the iconic and beautiful Clydesdales with a memory of the nation’s tragedy.
#4. Dodge Ram: So God Made a Farmer
Note: I have to admit I worry about our farmers. The men and women who feed us. I worry that we are taking them for granted, that their faithfulness to us will in some way forge forgetfulness in us. These men and women work hard because they know no other way. They’re loyal, courageous, ingenious and tough because those things are all mandatory parts of their job descriptions. So, the Super Bowl ad at number 4 is especially meaningful to me, and I’m sure to many others.
The Year: 2013 – The Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers 34–31. (It was the first Super Bowl loss in 49ers franchise history.)
The Story: The commercial features part of a speech that the late radio personality Paul Harvey – an ABC News icon for over 50 years – gave to the 1978 convention of the National Future Farmers of America. You can read the full text of Harvey’s speech here.
#3. Nuveen Investments: Hope
The Year: 2000 – The St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans 23–16.
The Story: This one is perhaps the most interesting because, in some circles, it has been excoriated as one of the worst Super Bowl ads in history. And, if I were counting down the top Super Bowl ads in terms of production values or the use of digital effects, this wouldn’t be in the top 200. But I’m recognizing the attempt to portray meaning and values, particularly the focus on hope. To skeptics, Christopher Reeve, the ad’s late star, defended it. “The biggest problem actually is people who have been in a chair for a very long time,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America — “because in order to survive psychologically they have to accept, ‘OK, I’m going to have to spend my life in a chair.'” The ad therefore may have offered hope in the world of persons with disabilities. And in fact that community largely lauded it.
#2 Jeep: Whole Again
Note: Before you send me a concerned email about Oprah Winfrey and her questionable quasi-theology, please know that I am not affirming her in evaluating this ad as one of the best in history, but recognizing the power of the ad itself in honoring men and women who have surely earned it.
The Year: 2013 – The Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers 34–31.
The Story: Because of my strong support for our nation’s military men and women, there was going to be at least one ad in the countdown demonstrating our support for them. This was the one I chose and, in fact, I’m ranking it as the second best “values” ad in the history of the big game.
Before I get to #1, some Honorable Mentions
#1 Tim Tebow - Focus on the Family
The Year: 2010 – The New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31–17.
The Story: You remember this one, I suspect. It was, at the time, written about as one of the most “controversial” Super Bowl ads in history.
Paid for by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, the ad tells the story of Bob and Pam Tebow, who was pregnant with their fifth child when the couple travelled to the Philippines on a missionary trip.
While there, Pam contracted amoebic dysentery and the medicines used for her recovery threatened her unborn fetus. Doctors advised her to abort the fetus. Pam ignored their advice and gave birth on Aug. 14, 1987, to a baby boy. That boy was Tim Tebow.
Of course, in hindsight, I’m not sure it was so controversial. Moreover, I’m ranking it as the best values-focused Super Bowl ad in history. If you’d like to learn more about the story behind the ad, you’ll find that here.