Coke's Super Bowl Commercials Ranked

There are a few things you can count on from a Super Bowl. One is that, most likely, Tom Brady will be playing in the game. Another is that the halftime show will have at least one or two glitches, which may be as innocuous as Bruce Springsteen sliding crotch-first into a camera or as decidedly serious as nudity caused by the infamous so-called "wardrobe malfunction."

You can also count on a lot of great commercials airing during a Super Bowl broadcast, and in most years a reliable roster of companies will contribute an ad to this lineup. 2021's Super Bowl LV, the 55th Big Game, will feature Tom Brady as he leads the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the defending Kansas City Chiefs. It may have some halftime wackiness as The Weeknd headlines the halftime show, but what it won't have is commercials from a surprising number of perennial Super Bowl broadcast participants.

Among the companies passing on Super Bowl advertising for Super Bowl LV are Budweiser, Avocados from Mexico, Pepsi, Hyundai, and perhaps most surprising of all, Coca-Cola.

Coke has released some of its finest ads during Super Bowl games past, and indeed many a time Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercials have been among the best aired during the championship game. With no new Coke Super Bowl spot for 2021, we're going to take a look back at some of the soft drink giant's best ads from Big Games past. Join us for a stroll down a sweet, fizzy memory lane.

12. A Coke is a Coke, 2019

Coca-Cola's animated commercial for the 53rd Super Bowl, in 2019, was yet another spot saying, in as many words, it's okay that we're all different, we're all here in this life together, and we should all drink Coke. The fluid, if you'll permit the pun, animation of the ad shows everyone from boxers to farmers to chefs to movie stars, and of course people of all races, shapes, and sizes, and with many narrators lending their voice, to say, in various ways, there's a Coke for everyone. 

Notably, in one moment a narrator also says it's okay if you're not thirsty for a Coke right now, as we like that lack of pushiness. (Now, would Coke be happier if this ad pushed our unconscious mind to go and buy some Coca-Cola? Yes, we're willing to bet that's exactly why they spent several million dollars on the air time for this ad.)  

This one has the number 12 spot because while there's nothing wrong with it, per se, it just isn't memorable.

11. It's Mine! 2008

Coming in at number 11 is a cute enough ad, but one that failed in its goal to be epic.

The "It's Mine" Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial featured a slightly unexpected mix of characters. Starring in the ad were parade balloons of Family Guy's Stewie Griffin, classic cartoon superhero Underdog, and everyone's favorite cartoon sad sack, Charlie Brown. The balloons "fight" for a huge inflated bottle of Coca-Cola, with Charlie Brown coming out the winner for once. 

Frankly, the ad wasn't half as funny as Coke's team surely intended, but it was beautifully shot and featured lots of great images of New York City, not to mention showing lots of non-inflatable New York natives. The city was as much a character in the ad, as was the operatic score and drama of the filming. This is not a Super Bowl ad that likely comes to mind when you think of the greatest ones ever, but it is worth revisiting for a little smile, and it's also cool to see cartoon characters from a generation or even two or three back interact with a much more modern character.

10. Hulk vs. Ant-Man, 2016

Some people are not the biggest fans of the superhero genre and couldn't care less about the slew of Marvel movies that have come out in recent years, such as those starring Spider-Man, the Avengers, Ant-Man, and so on. But Coke went ahead and banked on the tens of millions of people who do like the genre with this Super Bowl ad. It depicts an epic chase wherein the massive Incredible Hulk pursues the very small Ant-Man all over a rather small can of Coke.

There are lots of splashy effects, some comedy, and of course the Marvel superheroes, but here's why the commercial works: if you watch it, you can't help but know that Coke is available in small cans for when you don't want an entire 12-ounce serving. (And no, that really isn't enough Coke for Hulk, and yes it's way too much for Ant-Man. Oh well.)

That said, this commercial is on our lower end because to those to whom superheroes don't appeal, it's a big, flashy "who cares?"

9. Happiness Factory, 2007

The Coke Super Bowl commercial called "Happiness Factory" finally let us in one what goes on inside a Coca-Cola soft drink vending machine. After a thirsty young man deposits his coin and hits the button for a Coke, we follow the journey of soda to dispenser with an insider's look. It turns out a strange, fairy tale cast of characters goes through an elaborate process of filling each bottle, capping it, chilling it, then giving it a parade as it makes its way down the chute to the customer. Or at least it's nice to think that all happens.

The ad was cute and a bit odd and perfectly inoffensive, which seemed to the brand's approach to Big Game ads for a while in the early 2000s. And while surely not a commercial that will enter the pantheon of the greatest ever, the production value and special effects were still pretty cool to look at. It's on the list for those, but ranked low because it's not all that memorable.

8. Heist, 2009

Coke's 2009 Super Bowl ad, called "Heist," was a rather classic and successful in every way. First, the production value was huge, which is to be expected from a big brand during the Big Game. Second, it was funny without anything even approaching the offensive in nature. Third, it very much promoted the product, in this case as being so desirable that a group of unlikely allies came together to get their hands on some Coca-Cola. Or maybe not hands, but wings, pincers, legs, proboscises, and other insect parts.

"Heist" tells the mini tale of a man who falls asleep in the park, only to have a bunch of bugs (from bees to beetles to grasshoppers) all work together to steal his bottle of Coke and share with a throng of thrilled invertebrates. If one thing can bring together species that at other times try to kill each other, it's a tasty soft drink. This one beats out "Happiness Factory" because along with good special effects, it had a mini story.

7. The Polar Bears, 2013

When you think about it objectively, it doesn't really make sense why Coke chose to use polar bears as some of its primary vehicles for advertising Coca-Cola, aside from the fact that they run those commercials in the winter. But if you're like most people even loosely steeped in American media culture, chances are good you could see one of these bears, without a Coke even on screen, and immediately be thinking of a Coke — they're rather like the animated equivalent of Budweiser's Clydesdale horses.

In this charming 2013 Super Bowl polar bear Coke ad, the bear family shares some hugs and some sips of their favorite bear-verage (sorry), and then they make a snow bear and give him a Coke, too. This is one of many, many polar bear Coke commercials produced over the years — they all rather blend together in the mind, but all further cement the association.

The Coke bears are at number 7 because they are an icon of the soda, the season, and the game.

6. The Wonder of Us, 2018

The 2018 Super Bowl commercial from Coca-Cola struck a different tone than many previous ads from the company (though not all) when it went more for the heartstrings than the funny bone. The ad, titled "The Wonder of Us" showed all sorts of different people doing all sorts of different things, from going on carnival rides to lounging at the beach to dancing to playing sports to sitting still for a moment and, making clear that, whether for "her, him, she, you, he, me, we," and so on, there's a Coke for all of us.

Did the ad actually have much to do with Coke? Not really, beyond a few people taking sips of the stuff. But it's a classic ad technique of hoping people get a good brand impression by association with being made to feel good. (Politicians tend to try for the same thing with babies and puppies, you will notice.) It's number 6 because the intention here was a positive one and the filming and production topnotch.

5. The Simpson's, 2010

Using celebrities to help endorse and sell a product is one of the oldest tricks in the proverbial book that advertisers use. And who are bigger celebs that the fictional cast of characters from The Simpsons? Pretty much no one. That's why Coke's Super Bowl 44 (that's Super Bowl XLIV) ad used many favorite Simpsons characters, including the core Simpson family, Milhouse, Lenny, Carl, Patty, Selma, Ned, Professor Frink, Nelson ... and well, on it goes with dozens of your favorites, really.

The star of the ad was wealthy old Mr. Burns, who we learn has just lost his fortune. But what brings a smile back to suddenly penniless Monty Burns' face? Why a bottle of cold Coca-Cola, of course. Now, will that be enough to get Smithers working for him again, the nuclear power plant running at full production, and for Springfield's oldest citizen to earn back his wealth? 

This ad gets number 5 because despite the fact that there are no memorable specific jokes, it makes great use of a beloved cast.

4. Troy Polamalu, Coke Zero, 2009

Not that there was any question that Coke was one of the world's largest players both in terms of product and in advertising power, but lest there was any doubt whatsoever, that was put to rest during the 2009 Super Bowl XLIII broadcast when Coca-Cola released a brilliantly self-referential ad. The spot was an homage to the Mean Joe Greene spot from 30 years before, but this time featuring player Troy Polamalu (who is not known for being mean, for the record) and advertising not Coca-Cola Classic, but Coke Zero.

Two Coke execs try to comically interrupt the ad, but Polamalu does what he does best and tackles them, the humor growing between the glamor shots of Coke Zero. And before that, many of the scenes are almost shot-for-shot recreations of the 1979 ad. Just look at the similarities between Mean Joe's sip shot below and Troy's, even. It's a solid spot and deserves being within our top five.

3. Going All the Way, 2014

The 2014 Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial "Going All the Way" was an inspirational mini film unto itself. In the ad, we see a young man named Adrian get taken off the bench and put into a youth football game. He is smaller than most players, and from how teammates treat him, perhaps not the best at the game. But when Adrian recovers a fumble, he sees his chance and takes it ... all the way. First Adrian runs to the end zone and scores a touch down, but then he keeps on going, right past a Coke billboard, and all the way across town and right onto the gridiron at Lambeau Field.

There, the young footballer is given a Coke to enjoy after his epic run. Never mind that soda is a diuretic; it's a cute ad and it helps us imagine that, with determination, anyone can do whatever they want, be it a big goal or a small one. This ad gets number 3 because it's touching and inspirational, and because we have all always felt like Adrian at the start of the ad and hoped to feel like he does at the end.

2. Mean Joe Greene, Hey Kid, Catch! 1979

The 1979 "Mean Joe Greene" Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial is one of the most famous ads of all time, often referenced, often spoofed, and never to be forgotten as long as we pay attention to any sort of media history. The ad might not resonate with a contemporary viewer who does not know the context, but Joe Greene was, at the time, one of the most respected NFL players for his prowess — but was just as harshly judged for his perceived aggressive and negative attitude.

In the ad, a young fan offers an injured and angry Greene his bottle of Coke, and after a moment, Mean Joe relents, accepts, and drinks the soda deeply and with gratitude, then tosses the youngster his game jersey. The ad managed to be both funny and sweet, and of course promotes Coke well, too. (And earlier on our list, we discuss a brilliant remake of this ad that came out 30 years after it.)

It was a tough call to make this number 2 or number 1, but there's one more commercial that reigns supreme over all the others.

1. America Is Beautiful, 2014

Coca-Cola's beautiful 2014 Super Bowl ad called "America Is Beautiful" brought out a lot of not-so-beautiful hate when countless people attacked the ad. The spot shows Americans of all races, ages, colors, locations, and backgrounds, and features the song "America the Beautiful" in many different languages, something a lot of closed-minded Americans seriously hated.

While plenty of people spouted off a lot of hate about the spot, plenty of people loved and supported it, too. Look no farther than one Twitter user's comment the night the commercial aired: "Best ad of the first half: #Coke celebrating the immigrant spirit of patriotism in #AmericaIsBeautiful" (via Huff Post).

Look at the commercial objectively, and you will see what America is truly made up of, which is lots of different people living in lots of different places, many of which are strikingly beautiful. Is it really so hard to just not find fault with that, Coke purchase in the cards or not?

This is our top pick because despite the hate it caused to boil out of some, it was intended to show the love. Love for country. And love for Coke.