10 Current and Former NFL Stars Reveal Their Favorite Super Bowl Ads of All Time

Coca-Cola's classic 'Hilltop,' 'Super Bowl Baby Legends' and 'every single Doritos commercial' all made the cut

(L. to r.) Emmitt Smith, Jim Brown, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Irvin, Von Miller, Franco Harris, Patrick Peterson, Terry Bradshaw, Larry Csonka and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Photo Illustration: Dianna McDougall; Photo: Eric Espino/NFL

What do you do when you’re in a room with 50 of the greatest football players of all time while they’re filming 2019’s Super Bowl ad celebrating the NFL’s 100th anniversary? You ask them about their favorite spots from years past, of course. From Coca-Cola’s classic Mean Joe Greene ad from 1979 to the NFL’s 2017 commercial featuring toddlers dressed up like gridiron heroes, the list proves that the best Super Bowl ads score just as big with the players as they do with viewers.

Michael Irvin
Budweiser, 1999, “Wassup?”

“It speaks to the locker-room mentality, especially football players,” says the Dallas Cowboys and NFL Network star. “That’s how we are: ‘What’s up?!’” It was a great spot.”

Terry Bradshaw
Budweiser, 2014, “Puppy Love”

“I love anything with the Clydesdales, but the puppy ad was great,” says Pittsburgh Steelers great Bradshaw, himself a Super Bowl ad star for Pepsi and Tide, among others. “If there’s an animal in [an ad], you’re going to win me over.”

Larry Csonka, Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith
Coca-Cola, 1979, “Hey, Kid. Catch”

“I met [“Mean” Joe Greene] on the field, and I didn’t like him,” says Csonka, a member of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. “But when he did that ad, it showed his human side.” Greene “is a hard-nosed [guy],” notes NFL legend Brown, “but it was [great to see] the gentleness with that kid.” The ad, agrees Smith of the Dallas Cowboys, “shows a big-time football player [and a] big man with a big heart.” Interestingly, it turns out Greene was not entirely sold on doing the ad. “I was nervous and had to be coaxed into doing it,” he says. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to be portrayed. But I ended up getting a case of champagne from the Coca-Cola Company [thanking me] because the bottlers went crazy.”

Von Miller
NFL, 2017, “Super Bowl Baby Legends”

“It looks just like me [with] the cowboy hat, goatee and the jacket … everything I wore on that Super Bowl Sunday,” says the Denver Broncos linebacker of his mini doppelganger. “I found out later that [the baby in the ad] was a girl and was [former New England Patriots cornerback] Ty Law’s daughter.”

JuJu Smith-Schuster
NFL, 2019, 100th Anniversary

“I’m in it,” says the Steelers rookie wide receiver, “so this will be my favorite.”

JuJu Smith-Schuster is among 50-plus football greats featured in the the NFL’s Super Bowl ad.
Eric Espino/NFL

Franco Harris
Coca-Cola, 1971, “Hilltop”

Though the classic ad originally ran in 1971, it got a second life during the 1972 Super Bowl. “I like [the message] and what it was about,” says Harris. “The song stands out and, also, [it aired] during my rookie year” with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Patrick Peterson
Doritos

“Every single Doritos commercial to this day is phenomenal,” says the Arizona Cardinals cornerback. “They put so much thought into [the ads], but they’re so simple and I think, ‘I have to buy a bag of Doritos now.’”

Ndamukong Suh
M&M’s

“There have been so many [great ads by M&M’s],” says the Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle. “They have great collaborations, and I’m always curious to see how the characters pop out in the ads.”

Be sure to also check out Adweek’s cover story on the making of the NFL’s ambitious Super Bowl ad kicking off its 100th-season celebrations.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 28, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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