This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Feb. 8 Super Bowl 50 Issue. Subscribe today!
Your ad dollars, hard at work
IN 1985, 115.9 MILLION viewers watched Super Bowl XIX, and the game had its first million-dollar minute in advertising. In 1995, a 30-second ad cost $1.15 million. By 2015, 161.3 million were tuning in, and the average price tag for a 30-second spot had cracked $4.5 million. Nobody thought to track the really cool stats until recently. But a look at the past 20 years shows some serious late-game surge.
Total dollars spent in advertising, in millions*
Disrupting Super Bowl advertising since 1995
AS LONG AS there are Super Bowls -- and there will always be Super Bowls -- there will be spots for beer, chips and trucks. But the story of the past 20 years has been the rise of ads for stuff inconceivable in Super Bowl I. Seriously, you try explaining GoDaddy.com to Vince Lombardi.
Number of dollars spent on Super Bowl commercials, in millions*
It's good to be the king
WHETHER THROUGH TIRELESS Clydesdales, talking frogs or hard-partying dogs in need of intervention, Bud and Bud Light have turned the anthropomorphization of beer consumption into high art.
I'd like to teach the world to ... watch ads
1972 Coca-Cola airs "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke." The song from the New Seekers is rewritten as "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" and becomes a No. 1 hit in the U.K.
1974 Master Lock puts its padlock to the test by having a marksman fire a rifle at it. Versions of the ad will air for 20 years; yearly sales rise from $35M in '73 to $200M in '94.
1980 Steelers defensive tackle Mean Joe Greene trades a filthy game jersey for a Coke and makes history. But the iconic ad actually first aired in the 1979 MLB playoffs.
1984 Apple's dystopian "1984" ad sends a sledgehammer through the PC market. The spot almost didn't air: Apple's board of directors tried to sell off the Super Bowl ad time.
1989 Bud Bowl I, the "Battle of the Century," debuts with Bob Costas in the booth. Bud wins on a last-second FG. The cans storm the field. It was a simpler time.
1993 McDonald's showcases the greatest shooting contest ever: Jordan vs. Bird. Winner gets a Big Mac and fries.
1995 "Bud ... weis ... errrr." Three dyspeptic frogs capture America's heart and persuade us to drink beer through hypnotic guttural sounds. The ad costs an estimated $2.3M.
2000 Pets.com joins the online ad rush as its mascot sings "If You Leave Me Now," then folds less than 10 months later, and the tech bubble bursts. Blame the sock puppet.
2010 A bare-chested Isaiah Mustafa locks eyes with the camera, and America becomes transfixed by Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like." He's on a horse.
2011 Volkswagen scores with a boy in a Darth Vader helmet who tries to use the Force on the family Passat. The ad is viewed more than 10 million times online prior to kickoff.
*1995 dollar figures adjusted for inflation