Super Bowl LV will be unprecedented for many reasons. The 55th edition of the so-called Big Game will pit Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the defending Super Bowl champs, the Kansas City Chiefs with defending Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes as quarterback, so all of that is entirely precedented. What will be strange will be the decidedly small crowd in the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, as the NFL has announced it is limiting capacity to 22,00 in-person spectators, or about a third of the stadium’s capacity. (Some 7,500 of these fans will be vaccinated health care workers.)
Along with most of the fans, also absent from this year’s Super Bowl will be a number of notable advertisers, including Coca-Cola, Hyundai, Pepsi,Avocados from Mexico, and perhaps most notably of all Budweiser.
This will be the first Super Bowl in approximately 40 years without a Budweiser Super Bowl commercial, but the juggernaut of a brewery isn’t skipping the game due to CBS charging roughly $5.5 million per 30-seconds of air time. Instead, according to a statement from Budweiser, the company is "redirecting [their] advertising dollars to support COVID-19 vaccines awareness and education."
As we can’t enjoy an official Budweiser Super Bowl commercial this year, instead let’s look back at some of their best Super Bowl spots from Big Games past.
"The Budweiser Frogs"
For a while in the mid 1990s, the Budweiser Frogs were a serious sensation, at least as far as beer commercial amphibians go. Back then, were you to sidle up to a group and say "Bud" in a deep, slow voice, there was a decent chance someone in the gang would reply "wise" and still a third would end with "er." And yes, phonetically that would be "bud-wise-er," or the brand name. (There was, of course, a better chance that people would look askance at you and then move away subtly.)
The Budweiser frogs were featured in a number of commercials for the beer, but none such a hit as the original 1995 Budweiser beer frogs ad.
"True – aka Wassssssup?"
The so-called "Wassup" Budweiser Super Bowl commercial from 1999 — and its 2020 reboot – was so popular that its "Waaaaaaaassuuuuuup!?" catch phrase went from hilarious to annoying in record time. Still, the ad, properly titled "True" was brilliant in its simplicity in that it showcased friends watching sports and enjoying beer, the exact crux of the matter when it comes to Super Bowl beer ads.
This was yet another Budweiser commercial that was amazingly recognizable for a long time after it ran, and that will, for better or for worse, live on forever in the memory of people of a certain age range.
If ever there were a tear-jerker of an ad for beer, it was this one. The mini movie tells the story of an adorable little puppy getting lost and then bravely finding his way back home to the farm with some help from Budweiser’s iconic Clydesdale horses. The commercial didn’t have all that much to do with beer except for the fact that the handsome farmer drinks some beer, but who really cares? The dog was super cute and the horses are a symbol of the brand.
The "Lost Dog" ad was a favorite of many Super Bowl beer commercial fans, and if you look through the YouTube comments on the ad, you’ll see the common theme: tearing up while viewing.
"Stand By You"
Budweiser’s 2018 commercial may have been touching then, but it would serve even better now when we could all use help on a whole new scale. The spot was called "Stand By You" and rather than showcasing the brewery making beer, it focused instead on their producing cans of water meant to help first responders and people hit by natural disasters. In the ad, we watched as beer production shut down and canned water production and distribution ramped up.
The ad was yet another example of selling a brand and its attitude and approach rather than its product, at it was roundly seen as a successful ad. Perhaps ahead of its time, even, for better or for worse.
Frankly, the 2007 Budweiser Super Bowl commercial called "King Crab" was a bit weird and even unsettling. Seeing all those crabs praying to the beers? Kind of odd, but it was on brand for a company that basically has two approaches to its ads: very touching and heartstring pulls and all, or weird and wacky humor. In the spot, a group of crabs steal a cooler out of which two beers are sticking out of a bunch of ice.
Then a bunch of crabs surround the cooler and bow to it in awe. It felt more like an ad from the mid 1990s, not 2007, and perhaps that was part of the reason it was kind of charming in its own unusual way.
The 2010 Budweiser Super Bowl commercial made use of, surprise, surprise, Clydesdale horses and a dog, but this time the horses and dog were not the main characters. Instead, that honor went to a cow who proved that hey, cows can be cute. Especially when they’re calves. The spot shows a Clydesdale horse and calf who are friends when young, and then tells us three years have passed. As the now older, trained horse trots by the grown cow along with his horse team, the cow recognizes him, breaks through a fence, and the friends are reunited.
It’s a cute spot, and one if many in which the beer itself makes only about a one second appearance as two farmers are shown holding Budweisers.
"Clydesdale Football Game"
1996’s Budweiser Super Bowl commercial was one of the company’s first spots where they used the iconic Clydesdale horses and humor as a winning combination, so while not the best Bud Big Game spot with horses and laughs, it was a trend setter of sorts. In the spot, called, fittingly, "Football," two teams of horses line up across from one another and then play a game of football, or at least as much as horses can. This includes a final point scored when the ball is kicked over some power lines.
And in what would also soon become par for the course for Budweiser Super Bowl ads, at the end we see two men drinking beer, or rather holding beers, this being the only beer-related part of the ad.
Budweiser’s 1999 Super Bowl commercial was called "Lobster" and it was funny then and it’s funny now. In the ad, we see a chef at a high-end restaurant about to toss a lobster into a pot of boiling water. Fearing for (and fighting for) his life, the lobster grabs a bottle of Budweiser off the tray of a passing waiter and brandishes it at the staff, one of whom yells "Nooooo! He’s got a Bud!" Terrified of wasting the beer, the chefs and waiters let the lobster back away with the beer and finally escape.
And then, in the grace note, an exasperated customer says "I guess I’ll have the steak." Let’s also take a moment to appreciate the fact that they’re serving bottles of Bud in this fine dining establishment.
"Born the Hard Way"
The 2017 Budweiser Super Bowl commercial was a marked departure from their usual strategy in that it was not a wacky, funny ad and was not a tear jerker, either. And no cute puppies or heroic horses in sight. Instead, the ad, called "Born the Hard Way" was a mini film that showed the journey of brewery founder Adolphus Busch as he made his way from Europe to America (to St. Louis, Missouri to be specific) with his dream of setting up a new business and, in the process, a new life.
It’s perhaps a bit overly dramatic, what with narrow escapes from flaming ships and such, but it’s a compelling spot and was more about the beer than many other of their ads. It also ends with an enthusing moment where the aspiring young brewer shakes hands with a man who introduces himself as Anheuser. The rest, of course, is history.
Yeah, they did it again in 2005. That year, in a commercial since aired only online, Budweiser brought us all to tears, this time with an ad called "Soldier’s Tribute." The spot is simple yet profound. It shows a number of United States Army personnel deplaning and walking through an airport, and soon they are being applauded and saluted by a terminal filled with grateful civilians.
At the end of the ad, the words "Thank You" appear on the screen. Remembering back to that year, when two wars were in full effect, the power of the ad is magnified. And it’s summed up by one comment left on the video on YouTube, which reads: "I’m a pretty tough guy… but this commercial makes me cry every single time I watch it."
"A Hero’s Welcome"
It’s not every day a person gets an entire surprise parade thrown, and one that becomes the basis for a major Budweiser Super Bowl commercial, either, but that’s what happened one day to a soldier named Lt. Chuck Nadd as he arrived home after serving overseas in the Army. The spot featuring the lieutenant’s parade aired during Super Bowl XLVIII and was titled "A Hero’s Welcome." Budweiser pulled out all the stops, with motorcades, horse-drawn wagons, marchers, music, and plenty of veterans on hand to welcome the young man home.
The ad ends with the words asking us all to "Salute a Hero," which they certainly did. We just hope Lt. Nadd hadn’t counted on a quiet homecoming, because that is not what he got.
If you have a formula that’s working well, no real reason to change it right? That’s what we saw from Budweiser in 2013 when they paired, again, a handsome man who works at a farm with cute animals and handsome horses. In this case, they added in even more story than usual, though. The spot was called "Brotherhood" and it showed a man raise a young Clydesdale from youth up until it was old enough to go off an be a famed Budweiser horse.
Then, three years later, the man sees his former horse at a parade in the downtown of a city. He watches the horse wistfully as it marches proudly by, but it turns out his erstwhile equine friend saw him, too, as in the end it breaks free of the team and runs down the street to its human buddy. And yep, cue the water works.
Try to imagine what it must have felt like when after 13 long years America’s period of Prohibition finally ended. Now stop trying to imagine and watch the 2012 Budweiser Super Bowl commercial that depicted the end of that dark chapter of American history. This spot shows people all across America learning that, at long last, they can once again (legally) enjoy a beer, and the joy is palpable.
The spot is funny, to be sure, but also strangely heartwarming and compelling, showing resilience and community and happiness all at once. Also it has some horses and dogs, because of course it does — Budweiser really can’t well resist adding them it seems.
The 2011 Budweiser Super Bowl commercial was a powerful minute if ever a powerful minute has been put on film. In the spot, which was released in the year of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a team of Clydesdales trots out of the country and makes its way to New York City, crossing the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and then coming to a halt with the New York skyline in the background. Then the horses kneel in tribute to those lost.
The ad ends with the words "We’ll never forget" emblazoned across the screen. It is a genuinely moving spot that only aired once, and though there was some backlash for using a tragedy to sell beer, that genuinely does not seem to have been the intent of the commercial’s creators, who paid touching homage to the fallen.