Coca-Cola has scored its share of touchdowns with more than 35 commercials dating back to 1977. The brand will make yet another primetime appearance Sunday night.
To get everyone fired up for this year’s broadcast, we're delving deep into the Coke archives and revisiting some of the brand’s most memorable Big Game ads. (Hint: We can’t publish these spots here, but you can find most of these with a quick YouTube search.) Take a look:
1980: "Mean Joe Greene"
1989: Diet Coke in 3D
Coca-Cola and the NFL presented the first-ever live 3D show in network history. Coke bottlers gave away 20 million pairs of cardboard-framed “Nuoptix 3D” glasses (pictured above) in the weeks leading up to the Big Game, enabling fans to experience the halftime show and a cutting-edge Diet Coke commercial featuring a runaway vending machine barreling down the hilly streets of San Francisco. Viewers without the glasses (now a collector's item) saw a clearer-than-normal 2D picture of the ad, which was shot with high-speed cameras.
1990: “Hilltop Reunion”
This refresh of the iconic 1971 Coke ad featuring “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” included most of the original cast members and their children. The company worked for much of the year to track down the original "Hilltop" stars, posting classified ads in many of the world's major newspapers. The sequel was the first to use 3D audio technology called QSound, which made the human ear “think” it was hearing sound from well outside the speaker area.
1991: Supporting the Troops
The company had planned to air a lighthearted halftime ad announcing the $1 million grand prize winner of a Diet Coke sweepstakes, but with the Persian Gulf War underway, ultimately decided to broadcast a pair of commercials saluting U.S. servicemen and servicewomen in the Middle East and announcing a $1 million donation to the USO.
“At the time, it was considered a bit of a risk in that all brands were faced with having to make the decision of what to do,” recalls Coca-Cola Archivist Ted Ryan. “Coke was both criticized and applauded that year.”
2007: “Videogame” and “Happiness Factory”
After a multi-year hiatus from the Big Game, Coke made its high-profile return to advertising’s biggest stage with four buzzworthy ads, including a pair of animated spots that won over fans and critics alike. In “Videogame” (above) a menacing-looking action hero prowls the dark streets of an unnamed city, setting off a chain reaction of small but meaningful good deeds and proving that “when you give a little love, it all comes back to you.” Meanwhile, “Happiness Factory” (pictured at the top of the page) captures the magical world inside a Coca-Cola vending machine, complete with a cast of colorful characters and a Broadway-caliber soundtrack anchored by Coke's signature 5-note melody. “Both became classics during the game that year and online for many months afterwards,” Ryan said. “‘Videogame’ is still one of Coke’s most-watched videos on YouTube.”
2008: "It's Mine"
The underdog finally gets his moment of glory in this fan favorite, which fuses live action, computer animation and a few familiar faces. In the spot, Thanksgiving Day parade floats vie for a giant Coca-Cola contour bottle over the New York City skyline. Popular cartoon characters battle it out until an unlikely victor emerges, proving that even nice guys finish first every once in awhile. “This and 'Mean Joe' are probably tied for my favorite Coke Big Game ad of all time,” Ryan says. “The payoff in this one is so great because it's so unexpected.”
In this animated ad set to a synchronized classical music soundtrack, a team of bees, ladybugs, grasshoppers, butterflies and other insects join forces to rob a slumbering picnicker of a bottle of Coca-Cola. The cinematic ad took home Coke’s first-ever Emmy Award later that year.
What do these diverse spots share in common? "That spirt of optimism and classic approach to storytelling," Ryan concludes. "Those are the hallmarks of great Coca-Cola advertising."
Other brands in Coke's portfolio have produced Big Game over the years, too, from the aforementioned Diet Coke and Coke Zero, to glacéau vitaminwater, Full Throttle, Vault and SURGE.
So.... what did we miss? List your favorite Coca-Cola Big Game ads of all time in the comments section below, and be sure to tune in to Sunday's game to see what the brand has in store.
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