The Most Emotional Super Bowl Ads Of All Time

People around the country are gearing up for the matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs in the 57th Super Bowl. The Chiefs played in the first-ever Super Bowl back in 1967, though they're likely hoping to do better in this year's game since the first one ended with a 35-10 win by the Packers, according to LIFE Magazine. It's not just football fans who are likely to be tuning into the game on February 12, 2023. Rihanna is headlining the Super Bowl halftime show and she hasn't sung on stage since the 2018 Grammys, so fans can't wait to see her, via Billboard. Adele is even going to the game just to see Rihanna's performance, per Vulture. And Rihanna won't even get paid to perform though the show itself will likely have cost millions, reported Esquire. Here's why the Super Bowl halftime show is so expensive.

Along with the entertainment of the football game itself and the halftime performance, there are, of course, the commercials. Some companies have started dropping teasers for their full-length Super Bowl commercials, like Rakuten, which is using a familiar '90s movie icon in their ad. Advertisers are looking to connect with viewers emotionally, and you can expect to laugh and even cry with this year's Super Bowl ads if previous years are any indication. Here are ten of the Super Bowl's most emotional commercials. So get your tissues ready.

A Clydesdale's Journey for Budweiser in 2022

In 2022, Budweiser's Super Bowl commercial "A Clydesdale's Journey" showed the story of a Cyldesdale suffering an injury while trying to jump over a barbed-wire fence and facing a potentially impossible recovery. Throughout the winter, his owner and faithful dog buddy check in on the injured horse and seem doubtful that recovery is possible after so much time. But by the end of the one-minute commercial, the horse is shown confidently running free with the tagline at the end reading: "In the home of the brave, down never means out." And with the Golden Retriever who seems worried about their Clydesdale friend and is seen running with the horse at the end, you've got the recipe for waterworks. Daniel Blake, Group VP of Marketing, Budweiser & Value at Anheuser-Busch said the ad was designed to "highlight the perseverance and determination of the country and depict that by coming together, we can grow and move forward stronger than before," as reported by The Florida Times-Union.

Respect for Budweiser in 2002

Another Clydesdale Budweiser commercial that brought tears to the eyes of viewers was the tribute to the lives lost during 9/11. The 2002 Super Bowl ad features a team of Clydesdales pulling a red Budweiser wagon up to Liberty State Park in New Jersey and then stopping to bow in the direction of the New York City skyline. The ad wasn't shown again on TV until a slightly modified version was aired on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, per AdAge. Members of Congress, then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and others gave approval for the ad, allowing them to film with a helicopter over the city not long after 9/11, according to The New York Times

The power of the ad is clear and appreciated by many if the comments on YouTube are any indication. One person wrote: "I was so moved by it and the majesty of those Clydesdales that it touched my heart just by the simplicity and the surrounding of the location." Another said "Of all their commercials, this is my favorite. Imagine going to all the trouble and cost knowing it will only be aired once out of patriotism and respect for our country."

Upstream for Toyota in 2021

The moving story of swimmer Jessica Long was featured in Toyota's 2021 Super Bowl ad. Long has won 29 medals over 5 Paralympic Games, according to the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee. And Toyota has been a Worldwide Paralympic Partner since 2015, so it seemed like a good fit. Long was adopted at the age of one from a Russian orphanage and had to have both legs amputated below the knee when she was 18 months old, per Liberty University. The minute-long commercial shows some of the challenges that she's faced and overcame on her journey to becoming a Paralympic gold medal winner as well as the excitement of her adopted parents to meet her. It ends with the message "We believe there is hope and strength in all of us." Of the commercial, Long said "It's so raw. The way Toyota was able to capture all of that, it brings all of these emotions out that I kind of forgot about," as reported by the International Paralympic Committee. 

Brothers for Toyota in 2022

Toyota seems to have doubled down on the success of featuring Paralympian medal winners in their Super Bowl ads. In 2022, they depicted the inspirational story of the McKeever brothers. Both Brian and Robin McKeever are world-class cross-country skiers, but Brian was diagnosed with an untreatable genetic eye disease at 19 that progressed to the point where he is legally blind, as reported by The New York Times. The Super Bowl spot shows the training work both brothers kept putting in after the diagnosis, and showed how Robin became Brian's eyes as his guide, enabling him to compete in the Paralympic games. The tagline for the story of a triumph over adversity is "Start your impossible."

The positive and inspiring messaging was a good play by Toyota. Research has found that videos showing "personal triumphs" are the ones most likely to be shared, as noted by Contently.

Loretta for Google in 2020

Grab your tissues for "Loretta" by Google. Debuting during the 2020 Super Bowl, it starts with the phrase "how to not forget" being entered into Google, and then shows the story of an elderly man working to keep the memory of his late wife Loretta alive — with Google's help, of course. The 85-year-old man talks to his Google Assistant to show photos of the two of them together before she passed, and he asks it to remember certain things from their life, like how Loretta hated his mustache and how he was the luckiest man in the world. His trip down memory lane likely rings true for many people. What makes the sweet story even more touching is that it's based on a real-life couple. In a statement about the ad, Google revealed "the voice you hear throughout 'Loretta' is the grandfather of a Googler, whose story we drew from to create the ad."

Real Strength for Dove Men+Care in 2015

The "Real Strength" ad for Dove Men+Care that aired during the 2015 Super Bowl was pretty much the same as their 2014 Father's Day ad, but it still hit viewers in the feels. It showcases the love and support that so many dads give to their kids throughout their lives. They chose to show the ad during the Super Bowl, which is inherently centered around the idea that real strength is literal strength, for a reason. They wanted to help "to change the conversation, offering a unique position to challenge the traditional notions of what it means to be a man and what it means to be strong," according to AdAge.

Plenty of people liked and were moved by what they saw. In the YouTube comments for the ad, one wrote: "It represents real fathers, in the real world. Good work Dove." Another said: "So many commercials depict dads as buffoons. These men are like the father and husband I know and love. Great job!"

Daughter for Audi in 2017

Other companies have also worked the angle of parent and child to tug at the heartstrings of viewers, like the Audi 2017 Super Bowl commercial called "Daughter." Over images of a young girl competing in a soapbox derby is the voice of her dad wondering if he should "tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets?" By the end though, when she's won the race, the dad says he thinks "maybe" he can "tell her something different." The final seconds are just text: "Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work. Progress is for everyone."

They delivered a clear message of gender equality, and the celebration of the daughter and her dad after she's won the race works as a poignant symbol of hope in societal change for the better. The vice president of marketing for Audi of America acknowledged to Forbes that they specifically wanted the ad to "speak to America emotionally."

The Journey Begins for 84 Lumber in 2017

84 Lumber isn't an internationally known brand, but nonetheless, they made a big impact with their 2017 Super Bowl commercial. The ad depicts a mother and daughter traveling toward the United States border looking for a better life, seemingly from Mexico. It's a strenuous journey, and it's clearly designed to elicit compassion for the mom and her daughter, and by extension, the issues faced by migrants. The ad that aired during the game cut off before you could find out what happened to the girl and her mother. The uncut version is five minutes, and 44 seconds.

By the end of the full version, it shows the little girl had made an American flag out of scraps of materials she'd picked up along the way. And while it seems that their long journey may be a waste when they're faced with a seemingly insurmountable wall at the border, a door appears for the mother and daughter duo to walk through. The final line is "The will to succeed is always welcome here."

Life for Chevrolet in 2012

Chevrolet leaned in on the emotion with its 2012 Super Bowl spot called "Life." The minute-long commercial shows a husband and wife driving along a country road. The wife reaches for her husband's hand as she gazes out the window at the sunrise, and by the end of the ad, it's clear that she's a cancer survivor. As the Chevy truck drives off down the road, text on the screen comes up: "Join Chevy and the American Cancer Society in celebrating survivors and those who support them on the road to recovery." The soundtrack also helps give it its emotional heft. They used "Don't Leave" by Ane Brun with lyrics including, "Don't you ever leave / That is what you said to me / Do you know what that can do / To someone like me?"

The actors they chose for the ad both had a personal connection to the fight against cancer. The mother of the wife character in the commercial died of lung cancer, and the man who plays the husband is himself a cancer survivor, according to a General Motors press release.

Puppy Love for Budweiser in 2014

And what would a compilation of emotional Super Bowl ads be without a puppy? Budweiser's 2014 Super Bowl commercial "Puppy Love" follows a Golden Retriever puppy for sale who escapes their pen and ends up in a barn and making an unlikely friend in the form of a Clydesdale — it is Budweiser after all. As the commercial goes on, the horse's owner keeps returning the puppy to its home, only for it to keep returning to his horse friend. Then when the puppy is sold and driven away, horses gallop after the car to help stop their puppy friend from leaving. All's well that ends well with the puppy frolicking together in a field with the Clydesdale; cue the waterworks.

The commercial has consistently made the list of best Super Bowl commercials of all time, via USA Today. And it didn't come solely from the imagination of the marketing team. It was based on something that actually happened at a Budweiser Clydesdale breeding ranch. Budweiser Vice President Brian Perkins revealed that the idea came from "observing a genuinely friendly (exchange) between a Clydesdale and a puppy," per USA Today. 

In 2015, Budweiser followed up with the interspecies buddy theme for the Super Bowl with "Lost Dog." In that one, the Clydesdales rescue the lost Golden Retriever puppy from a wolf and bring the puppy back home.