The Top Rated Super Bowl Commercial Each Year, 1989 to Present

Since 1989, USA Today has asked viewers to sit through the beer ads, candy commercials, and those awful GoDaddy spots to pick the best. Last year, they expanded their online operations to poll 7619 panelists who were asked to watch the entire broadcast and, in live time, score each commercial on a scale of 1 to 10. As you prepare to judge 2014's commerical offerings, let's take a look back at the best of previous years:

1989 – American Express

In a fairly straightforward commercial (OK, straightforward for the Super Bowl), actors Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey, who were both on Saturday Night Live at the time, use their credit cards to get to the big game in Miami. Lovitz has trouble with his Visa, while Carvey is in paradise with his American Express.

1990 – Nike


Announcers, including the likes of Harry Caray, call an event that keeps changing sports with shots of Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, and Bo Jackson. The phrase “Nice shoes” keeps being used. Oh, and there’s even a Richard Nixon joke.

1991 – Diet Pepsi

Because America was fighting the Gulf War at the time, USA Today says many advertisers switched their funny commercials to more serious ones—and those spots didn’t even make their top 10. Diet Pepsi and Ray Charles asked the world if their jingle had caught on yet, receiving a unanimous “sure, dude.”

1992 – Nike

“Who’d you expect, Elmer Fudd?” asks Michael Jordan in Nike’s winning ad, which also featured Bugs Bunny. This commercial laid the groundwork for the future cinematic work of art, Space Jam.

1993 – McDonald’s

Maybe Michael Jordan is what it takes to hit number one; by 1993, he had been featured in three winning commercials. Jordan and Larry Bird duel against each other in an outrageous game of H-O-R-S-E played throughout Chicago. All in the name of the almighty Big Mac.

1994 – Pepsi

A lab chimp drinks a bottle of Pepsi, drives to the beach, and turns into a party animal. Enough said. This begins Pepsi’s domination over other Super Bowl commercials for the next four years.

1995 – Pepsi

Using his straw to get the last drop of Pepsi in his bottle, a young boy on a beach accidentally sucks so hard that he pulls himself into the bottle. His little sister yells, “Mom, he’s done it again!”

1996 – Pepsi

A Coke driver is delivering a new batch to a store when he decides to grab a Pepsi. The whole shelf of cans tumbles to the floor while the Hank Williams song “Your Cheatin’ Heart” plays in the background. Anyone else imagining a modern-day version with Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”?

1997 – Pepsi

These bears had a primal urge to dance to the tune of the YMCA song, just using the letters that spell out Pepsi. Bless the old man toward the end who makes a Macarena joke.

1998 – Pepsi

This was the last year for Pepsi, who had proved to be a powerhouse during the mid-90s. In this minute-long spot, a skysurfer goes head to head with a goose. The two eventually share a Pepsi and a flock of geese fly away, creating the company’s logo in the sky.

1999 – Budweiser

Enter Budweiser, a company that will play on its Clydesdale tradition and dominate Super Bowl ads from here on. Two dalmatian puppies are separated at birth, one becoming a part of a firehouse and the other the mascot of the Clydesdale-driven beer wagon.

2000 – Budweiser

Rex the Wonder Dog isn’t cooperating on set. While his director is yelling at him, we see the dog’s dream: While chasing a Budweiser truck, he slams into the side of a mini-van. The dog howls, the director catches it on film, and the movie becomes a success.

2001 – Bud Light

Anheuser-Busch replaces their love for animals with Cedric the Entertainer. While trying to entertain his date, the romance takes a turn for the worse when his bottle of Bud Light accidentally explodes on the girl.

2002 – Bud Light

Satin sheets—good. Bud Light—great. The two together? Not so much. A woman begins enticing her beau to join her on their satin sheets with Bud Light, but it doesn’t go as planned. He slides across the sheets and flies out the bedroom window.

2003 – Budweiser

Another Budweiser spot using their famous Clydesdale horses. This time, Budweiser is parodying the use of instant replay by having football-playing horses and a referee zebra. When one of the two humans watching the game calls the ref a “jackass,” the other responds, "I believe that's a zebra."

2004 – Bud Light

They brought back the animals … just not in a good way. Two dog trainers are using their pets to try to outdo each other. It gets weird when one dog bites the other trainer in the groin. This was the same year that Janet Jackson introduced “wardrobe malfunction” into our everyday language.

2005 – Bud Light

A first-time skydiver is too scared to jump out of the plane—and when his instructor tosses a six-pack of Bud Light out of the hatch, it's the plane's pilot who takes the plunge. 

2006 – Bud Light

In what is a “genius” idea, a man installs a turntable so he can hide his refrigerator in an attempt to keep his friends away from his Bud Light. The turntable, though, sends his box to the apartment next door where a group of men are praising the “magic fridge.”

2007 – Budweiser

On a beach, a bunch of crabs hijack a cooler filled with Bud Light. When two bottles in the cooler make it appear like a large crab surrounded by a halo of sun, the gang begins to idolize it.

2008 – Budweiser

In a tribute to Rocky, a horse is turned down to join the iconic horse-drawn Budwesier Clydesdale wagon, but gets inspiration from an unlikely mentor: a dalmatian. The horse trains through the toughest of conditions to join the hitch team.

2009 – Doritos

Doritos ended the reign of the Anheuser-Busch dynasty this year with their first-ever fan-generated commercial. Two men use a snow globe—what one character calls his "crystal ball"—to make wishes for the future. One man says that there will be free Doritos at work, so he throws the snow globe into a vending machine, breaking the glass to get at the Doritos. The other man wishes for a promotion, but accidentally hits his boss when he throws the globe.

2010 – Snickers

“You’re playing like Betty White out there!” Put an aging character actor in a commercial, let her get tackled during a football game, and apparently it’s solid gold that other Super Bowl commercials dream of.

2011 (tie) – Bud Light and Doritos

This was the first year the system returned a tie. Anheuser-Busch and Doritos were neck and neck in 2011, but not so much in 2012 and 2013.

A man is asked to housesit a group of intelligent dogs in a home with a refrigerator full of Bud Light. The man puts the dogs to work, catering a party and serving the product to guests.

In another user-generated win for Doritos, a man teases his girlfriend’s pug with a bag of Doritos. The guy closes and stands behind a glass door, but the pug runs and pounces on the door, knocking it down and taking the bag of chips.

2012 – Doritos

When a man witnesses his dog bury his wife’s cat, the dog bribes the man with bags of Doritos to keep mum. The dog’s plan worked, the commercial worked, and it only cost the video’s creator $20 to put together.

2013 - Budweiser

The big score (and waterworks) of the 2013 Super Bowl came when Budweiser told an emotional story of a trainer and the horse he breeds and raises to be a Budweiser Clydesdale. After seeing the baby horse and trainer interact, the commercial jumps three years, where we see the two re-unite at a big-city parade. The “Brotherhood” spot, which received an averaged score of 7.76, is paying homage to Budweiser’s long relationship with Super Bowl ads and with their horses. “It will be one that makes people smile, maybe put a little bit of a tear in their eye, it’s a very emotionally evocative spot. It’s a great piece and a nod to the tradition of the Clydesdales,” said Paul Chibe, vice president of U.S. marketing for Anheuser-Busch.

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January 31, 2014 - 2:28pm
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