As our eyes are glued to the television on February 7, we’re going to be on the lookout for a lot more than who scores a touchdown or that halftime show from The Weeknd. While we can’t all agree on what team is going to take the glory this year, we can certainly agree that the real highlight of the Super Bowl each year is the commercials. As we gorge ourselves silly on endless platters of wings and all the things, the topic at hand will be on the mini cinematic masterpieces that grace our screens between plays.
We’ve grown accustomed to and nowadays expect wow-worthy ads from the biggest brands in the world. While in 1967, the cost of a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl cost roughly $40,000, that number has since skyrocketed to a shocking $5.6 million average in 2019, according to Business Insider. With such high stakes, these brands are met with the difficult task of maximizing that short time frame and reeling us in with not only their consummate creativity but also by enlisting the biggest names in the world. Over the years, Pepsi has proved a strong contender in the race for best commercial and has sparked many a family feud and break room chatter sessions. Their ads have been fueled by superstars of the likes of Michael Jackson, Cindy Crawford, and Britney Spears. Let’s take a look at the best Pepsi Super Bowl commercials ranked.
15. Robert Palmer, Simply Irresistible, 1989
"Simply Irresistible" was THE song of the late ’80s. This chart-topping track from English crooner Robert Palmer featured the decade’s signature post-disco flair complete with the catchy factor that led him to snag the 1988 Grammy for best male rock vocal performance. The now-iconic music video was a hit in its own right, directed by famed British fashion photographer, Terence Donovan, it featured the world’s most famous supermodels, at the time, surrounding a rumbunctious Palmer as he delivered an energized performance of the track. This trendsetting video would soon set the standard and style for music videos to come in the next few years.
Having been used since in countless campaigns and soundtracks, the very best interpretation may just be in Pepsi’s 1989 Super Bowl commercial. In similar thematics to the original music video, Pepsi’s commercial features, shocker, models again. This time, they are surrounding the singer and wearing classic Pepsi-colored red bathing suits before changing into little black dresses and playfully sipping on cans of Pepsi. With many a sexual undertones, one Reddit user proclaims: "This commercial would not fly today." Perhaps he is right (and that’s another reason why we love it). Perhaps, it’s not as innovative as the rest on our list, but we think it still deserves a spot alongside he best. High fashion meets the everyday soda drink in this video that further laments Palmer’s place in 1980s popular culture.
14. Hank Williams, Security Camera, 1996
While the late great Hank Williams passed many years ago, his legacy lives on in his impressive catalog and his musical family, including his son Hank Jr. and a slew of talented grandchildren. Few songs define country music quite like Hank Williams’ 1953 "Your Cheatin’ Heart," released posthumously. Proclaimed by country music historian Colin Escott as the song that "to all intents and purposes defines country music." It is autobiographical in nature and was inspired by real life troubles in paradise. It has since been lamented by covers from Ray Charles to his son, Hank Jr.
Pepsi kept the story alive when they used it as the soundtrack to their 1996 Super Bowl commercial. While not quite as dramatic of heartbreaker as the original tale, the commercial finds a Coca-Cola delivery guy loading product into coolers at a convenience store. In the ultimate betrayal, he opts to quench his thirst with not a Coca-Cola, but a rival Pepsi, and hilarity ensues. The cooler of Pepsi comes crashing down on the unsuspecting cheater, catching him in the ultimate act of disloyalty before a store full of customers. That’ll show him! While maybe not a total original like some of the others on this list, this one is lighthearted and just plain hilarious. We think old Hank would be proud.
13. One Direction with Drew Brees, Live For Now, 2012
Drew Brees is a familiar fixture to any NFL fan, with a legacy on the New Orleans Saints that includes the MVP title of Super Bowl XLIV. Floundering behind a thriving Coco-Cola, Pepsi made a play of their own by increasing their media buys by a whopping forty percent within a year, according to USA Today. In 2012, they enlisted him for their Super Bowl commercial, and the ultimate power struggle ensued. The NFL legend goes head-to-head with not another sport figure, but one of the biggest boy bands of the past decade, One Direction.
He proved no match for the super-popular boy band. Ultimately, the group behind "What Makes You Beautiful" offered him a place in the band if he would give into the allure of Pepsi. Harry and the guys welcome the now sixth member, and they close out the commercial with a dazzling performance. The riveting act even includes a solo from Brees where he encourages the audience to "live while we’re young," a One Direction lyric that goes perfectly with Pepsi’s mission. It was a hit with the fans, and one Twitter user cleverly wrote: You know what lives in my mind rent free? The 1D + Drew Brees commercial." While only a hair more original than Security Camera, this one beats it out every so slightly because we can never get enough Harry Styles.
12. Mariah Carey, Time of Your Life, 2006
This one pretty much embodies everything you would want from a memorable commercial: an elaborate set, show stopping choreography, and even a wind machine? Huh? A spectacle in of itself, the 2006 Pepsi "Time of Your Life" Super Bowl commercial stars none other than the diva herself, Mariah Carey. She may be known for the countless albums she has sold, never-ending accolades, and the ever-present spotlight on her public life, but the superstar truly outdid herself in the mid-2000s with this ad cameo.
Carey’s vocals shine as a herd of male dances decked out in tuxedos perform intricate moves and even some acrobats before a giant, light-up sign of the Pepsi logo. The highlight of the video is when Carey, wearing only a skimpy white romper and sky-high heels, glides down a slide and straight onto the back of a motorcycle where she flies across the screen and over the larger-than-life emblazoned sign as fireworks burst. Fever dream meets soft drinks in this commercial that we just can’t get enough of. Many YouTube commenters agree. One argues that "This was the last best Pepsi commercial I ever seen." While we don’t exactly agree with that statement, the over-the-top production and catchy music hold this one strong in the number 12 spot.
11. Shakira, The Joy of Pepsi, 2003
Her hips don’t life, and neither do the numbers. Superstar Shakira is universally known as one of the top-selling artists, in terms of album and digital sales. Her voice is captivating, and fans can’t get enough of her signature dance moves. When "Objection (Tango)" came onto the scene nearly twenty years ago, it captivated audiences.
Pepsi enlisted the pop star for their 2003 Super Bowl commercial, "The Joy of Pepsi." An unassuming grocery clerk is dancing through an empty store to the track when suddenly the life-size cardboard cutout of Shakira transforms into the real performer. The two tango gleefully through the freezer aisles and straight through the deli counter to the produce section. The clerk comes to right before a crowd in shock and awe when he realizes it was all a fantasy and he’s just dancing with the fake Shakira. This one is full of energy and a favorite of many. However, with so many great Pepsi commercials out there, this one just can’t land the top spot.
10. Spice Girls, Move Over (Generation Next), 1997
The British came, and boy, did they conquer. English pop girl group The Spice Girls have reigned supreme since their debut in 1994, taking the music world by storm all across the globe. The members have since gone on to impressive solo careers in not only the music world but also in modeling and television, but we still catch ourselves from time to time feeling the girl power thanks to their monster hit "Wannabe" and our favorite blockbuster flick, Spice World.
Pepsi came a-knockin’ to enlist the girl in their "Generation Next" commercial. Looking fabulous as always and adorned in Pepsi’s signature blue hue, the group’s power anthem "Move Over" encourages and empowers us to join the movement of soft drink fans everywhere in this classic ’90s-style music video. Ginger Spice is even wearing a pair of her super-high platform sneakers complete with the classic Pepsi logo. Drinking Pepsi has never looked so good. It is everything we love about the ’90s all wrapped up in one short video and it has us missing the days of big budget music videos. This one inches out in position ahead of Shakira just ever so slightly, because why have just one female powerhouse when you can have five?
9. Britney Spears, Beyonce, Pink, Enrique Iglesias, We Will Rock You, 2004
The next one on our list is the true culmination of utter star power coupled with blockbuster movie-quality cinematics. One can only imagine the number of albums that Britney Spears, Beyonce, Pink, and Enrique Iglesias have collectively sold in their careers. Does such a number even exist? We’re still trying to wrap our brains around it. In 2004, Pepsi went with a Roman theme for their groundbreaking Super Bowl commercial that year and enlisted not one but four global superstars for the ride.
It’s the early A.D.s, and the Roman Colosseum’s audience erupts into applause and joins in with the iconic female superstars, dressed as gladiators, in their rendition of the Queen classic "We Will Rock You." With an over-the-top set and elaborate costumes, this one feels like its very own music video. The grand finale finds the three songstresses overthrowing the power-hungry ruler, played by a dashing Enrique Iglesias, and then consequentially chugging Pepsis in celebration. All in a day’s work. For star power alone, this one deserves its slot in the top ten.
8. Michael J. Fox, New Neighbors, 1987
Ah, the 1980s. Simple times, indeed. As far as movie stars go, Michael J. Fox was at the top of his game thanks to a little 1985 flick called Back to The Future. Forever engrained in popular culture as we know it, generations still to this day are embracing Marty McFly, the out-there Doc Brown, and the hoverboard. What kid didn’t dream of one day owning a DeLorean? We’re still waiting.
Pepsi truly put the pedal to the metal when they snagged Michael J. Fox to star in the 1987 Super Bowl commercial "New Neighbors." The established and in-demand actor was a household name, and the soda brand was hoping to cash in on his fame all the way to the bank (or soda machine). The commercial finds Fox home alone when suddenly, there’s a knock on the door. A beautiful blonde appears and she has her eyes set on one thing … a Diet Pepsi. Upon realizing he’s all out of the soda, Fox goes to great lengths, including overcoming a rainstorm and even a shady-looking biker gang, all to win over his new neighbor. In all its true ’80s glory, fans are still chattering on about it. Holding out just ahead of Enrique and the girls, it’s a simple story line, but done well.
7. Britney Spears, Joy of Pepsi, 2001
Britney Spears has been a household name since she burst onto the scene with "…Baby One More Time" in 1998. The very charismatic, girl-next-door charm made the pop star a marketing agency’s dream. And so, she become, as according to Bustle, the Queen of Pepsi. This partnership included serving as the brand’s spokesperson and starring in a number of commercials. It all began in 2001 with her first television spot for them.
Debuting during the 2001 Super Bowl, "The Joy of Pepsi" starred young Spears with a cohort of dancers and choreography from the then at the top of his game, Wade Robson (what a blast from the past!). The video kicks off in where else but a Pepsi soda factory, and Spears is in an employee’s Pepsi jumpsuit and hat with not a bit of skin showing. Just as quickly as the music kicks in, so does the clothing go to the wayside. The troop makes their way through the factory, a plant dance party of sorts, as Spears sings the now memorable "Ba ba ba ba ba" that is still stuck in our heads twenty years later. It ends with Spears, in another mid-drift-bearing top, propped up on a sparkling Pepsi sign. This one deserves the number seven spot because 20 years, later and we’re still singing it.
6. Michael Jackson, Pepsi Generation, 1984
Only a brand as iconic as Pepsi could grab the attention of an entertainer as iconic as Michael Jackson. In 1984, Jackson was at the top of his game and celebrating the one-year anniversary of the release of "Thriller." According to Marketing Week, Pepsi tapped Jackson and his brothers for a partnership, worth a reported $5 million, making them the first ever pop artists to act as the face of the brand in campaigns. Many commercials came out of the partnership, and even some moonwalking, but our favorite may just be the 1984 Super Bowl commercial starring the Jackson brothers, "Pepsi Generation."
The beat kicks in as the scene opens up to a mundane All-American street as Jackson appears in head-to-toe black with silver glistening socks and matching gloves. The camera pans to his feet as the dance routine begins. Local street kids get in on the action while "You’re the Pepsi Generation" is sung to the melody of "Billie Jean" as Jackson’s brothers appear drinking Pepsi and a dance-off ensues between the family and local children. While not big budget in wow-factor like the others on this list, we think simplicity wins here. Competition is getting fierce, but the King of Pop holds his own at number six.
5. Britney Spears, Pepsi Generation, 2001
The reign of Britney Spears continues in this next one. 2001’s "Pepsi Generation" is a celebration of the Pepsi ad campaigns since the 1960s. This commercial begins in black and white and finds Spears in a series of scenes celebrating each decade. The year 1963 finds Spears, adorned in a long blond wig, surrounded by two other women as part of a singing and dancing trio as they compete before judges in what looks to be an American Bandstand-style show.
Next, a beach party is in full force, and the crowd erupts in song saluting Pepsi. Before you can even blink an eye, a hippie anthem breaks out led by Spears in classic flower child garb. Suddenly, the scene skips, and it’s 1989. The video ends, triumphantly in full color, as a massive dance routine breaks out and the scenes interchange throughout the decades vividly. We think this is one of Pepsi’s most fun and elaborate commercials and rightfully earns its position toward the top.
4. Cindy Crawford, 1992
Cindy Crawford was THE model of the 1980s and early 1990s, gracing endless runways, magazine covers, and of course, advertising campaigns. As the most popular supermodel of that time, it’s no surprise that Pepsi enlisted her to star in their 1992 Super Bowl commercial. It finds Crawford pulling up to an old-school-looking gas station, in a candy apple red Lamborghini, of course. She takes a swig of a Pepsi much to the delight of two young boys, but they aren’t starring at her beauty — they are captivated by the can.
It’s still to this day one of the most memorable of all of Pepsi’s commercials. In fact, it was such a big deal that it was even remade for the 2018 Super Bowl, starring Crawford again, but this time with an appearance from her son, Presley Gerber. There have been endless parodies, including this one in 2016 featuring Crawford with James Corden for his popular late night show. That video has since received millions of views. To us, it’s utterly timeless. While not earth-shattering in any sense production-wise, the fact that its stood the test of time lands this one in the number four slot.
3. This Is Pepsi, Celebrating Every Generation, 2018
2018 was a really special year for Pepsi’s Super Bowl commercial. A retrospective, if you will. In this year’s 30-second spot, the company chose not to get caught up with the latest and greatest in technology and creativity but to celebrate the commercials that came before it. "This Is the Pepsi," narrated by late night host Jimmy Fallon, sparked the company’s brand-new campaign entitled Pepsi Generations. The commercial was a look back on the most iconic commercials that the soda brand had ever created.
In just 30 seconds, "This Is the Pepsi" quickly and comprehensively goes through the decades and the ever-evolving branding and soda can design. We see appearances by Cindy Crawford and clips from past commercial stars Jeff Gordon, Britney Spears, and Michael Jackson. While Michael J. Fox can’t be found anywhere, we do have an appearance from the Back to the Future DeLorean. We get all the feels from this one that celebrates the lasting impact Pepsi’s commercials have had on popular culture. Ah, nostalgia. Star-studded to say the least, we think this greatest hits of sort is worth the reported $15.4 million that went into it. There’s no way we couldn’t have this one in the top three.
2. Ray Charles, Wise Guy, 1990
Ray Charles was one of Pepsi’s go-to television darlings in the early 1990s, starring in several campaigns for the soda company. The partnership included not only commercials but radio campaigns, broadcast television specials, and even a catch phrase: "You’ve got the right one, baby, uh-huh." The campaigns were so popular Pepsi even used one of his commercials for this first-ever television ad in the Soviet Republic. His "Uh-huh" catch phrase even eventually made it onto packaging labels. While later campaigns were more elaborate with models and big budget party scenes, our favorite, is quite simple.
"Wise Guy," starring Ray Charles, ran during the 1990 Super Bowl. The commercial finds Charles behind his piano in an average-looking living room. After tickling the ivories, he reaches for his drink of choice, Diet Pepsi. Only It’s not Diet Pepsi, it’s rival Diet Coke. Charles takes a sip, and much to his dismay, he instantly realizes that what he’s drinking is not the real deal. He’s then given a Diet Pepsi, and all is right in the world. An instant classic, the simple story line is effective and allows the legendary Charles (and product) to shine. No frills.
1. David Bowie and Tina Turner, Creation, 1987
This one is totally out there, and we totally love it. What else would you expect when David Bowie is attached to it? Pepsi sought out to captivate the audiences with what could be best described as weird and bizarre. The shock factor worked. In 1987, Pepsi tapped iconic performers David Bowie and Tina Turner for their Super Bowl commercial, "Creation." The fantastical commercial, which we honestly wish was made into a full-length film, finds Bowie playing a mad scientist, complete with a lab coat and bowtie. In his wacky lab, viewers find Bowie amidst gadgets and gizmos a plenty. He’s manically going about the lab and eventually succeeds in his task: bringing to life the great Tina Turner.
He takes a sip of his glass bottle Pepsi and accidentally knocks the soft drink over on his computer, causing fire and smoke to erupt from his elaborate mechanisms. As the smoke clears, out emerges a stunning-looking Tina Turner. The two take to an outdoor set where a dance routine ensues. It’s strange, unusual, and we just can’t look away. This is an ever-so-odd pairing of two superstars that rightfully deserves its place at the top of our ranking.