Budweiser’s greatest Super Bowl commercial hits
Over the decades, Budweiser has created some of the most resonant pop culture ad hits in the history of the Super Bowl—inspiring laughs over frogs, coos over Clydesdales, sighs over puppies and more. But this year one of the game’s most iconic advertisers is sitting it out, as previously reported, with Anheuser-Busch InBev dedicating all of its in-game spots to Bud Light, Michelob Ultra and one corporate ad.
Here, we look back at some of our Super Bowl favorites from the King of Beers.
Bud squared off against its younger sibling, Bud Light, in the first “Bud Bowl,” a stop-motion, multi-ad game between the two brews. What looks pretty simple now was a big deal back then. “The digital revolution and the internet were still years in the future, cameras still used film, sound was mixed on magnetic tape, and Appleʼs miracle Macintosh had only debuted in 1984,” two creatives who worked on the ad recalled to Ad Age years after the campaign from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles.
This spot told the tale of two Dalmatian pups separated right after birth —but it’s not the heart tugger you might expect. The puppy who finds a new owner soonest, with the local fire station, blows a raspberry at its littermate in a snide farewell. The pair are then reunited on the road years later when the first dog’s firetruck passes by a majestic Budweiser carriage pulled by Clydesdales—upon which its sibling proudly sits. The spot, from DDB Chicago, won the USA Today Ad Meter that year.
In Dec. 1999, Budweiser started a cultural phenomenon with DDB Chicago when it turned a short film by director Charles Stone III into the first “Whassup” ad. They evolved the idea into a Super Bowl spot that brought a girlfriend into the conversation, a smart strategy to address the game’s dual-gender audience.
In perhaps a funnier move, Budweiser and DDB went to apply the “Whassup” framework to a bunch of stuffy preppy types, translating the iconic line from the first ad into the long-winded “What are you doing?” The ad’s original stars pop in at the end with a reaction shot.
Like 2021, 2002 was a tough year for brands deciding on what sort of message, if any, they should be presenting at the Big Game, following the tragedy of 9/11. Budweiser, however, hit just the right note, with the help of its iconic Clydesdales. This understated spot captured the steeds traveling from their stables all the way to New York City, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge to bow in view of where the twin towers once stood. The spot was directed by Believe Media’s Zack Snyder, who went on to fame as a big screen director with films like “300” and “Man of Steel.”
In yet another Ad Meter winner, Budweiser hit the beach with a cast of crabs that slink away with some sun lovers’ cooler. But if you’re thinking the brew was their lure, think again. The brand also previously had success with thieving crustaceans in 1999’s Super Bowl ad starring a lobster on the verge of getting boiled—but buys time with a bottle of Bud. Both spots were directed by David McNally and created out of DDB.
Like “Separated at Birth” before it, this Ad Meter winner tells another reunion story, this time of a horse trainer and the baby Clydesdale he raised to become one of Budweiser’s stately representatives. The spot sees the pair coming together again when the Clydesdales make an appearance at a local parade. The trainer, played by actor Don Jeanes, walks off longingly but ultimately finds that he left a bigger impression than he realized on his baby Clydesdale. This spot kicked off a trilogy of heart-tuggers, directed by Jake Scott of RSA Films, son of the man who helped propel big game ads into blockbuster territory, Ridley Scott.
It’s hard to go wrong with cute dogs in Super Bowl ads. But no brand has done it better than Bud. This ad from Anomaly saw the return of the Clydesdale’s horse trainer. Ad-tracking firm Ace Metrix judged it as the single most-liked Super Bowl spot from 2011 through 2015. The puppies came back in 2015, but the brand went on to retire them after determining that they don’t sell beer.
This ad told the story of the brand’s immigrant roots and came amid an intense immigration debate stirred by Donald Trump's election. It marked the end of Anomaly's seven-year run making Bud Super Bowl ads. The spot showed Bud using the game to tackle more serious issues, a trend that continued in 2018 when it used an ad to tout its canned water donation initiative activated in the wake of natural disasters, like the hurricanes that ravaged Texas and Puerto Rico in 2017. Bud touted wind power in 2019 and last year ran a spot that sought to dispel negative stereotypes about Americans.