The 50 Most Iconic Sports Commercials
Sports commercials are supposed to make us buy anything from beer to cross-trainers. They all have a distinct message that they want to get across so that we go and buy their product.
But once in a while, a commercial will come along that changes the game. It could be funny, serious, emotional or enlightening. It might change the way you view an athlete or a sport altogether.
Any way you look at it, sports commercials are as important to many athletes as their press conferences. It is their way of talking to the people and showing either a lighter side or a little edge.
These images stick in our minds, and when truly good, can be remembered forever.
Here are the top 50 most iconic and memorable commercials in sports history. Feel free to chime in and let me know what you think, and what I left out.
50. Miller Lite with Yogi Berra
What should stand out more from this commercial? Is it the tongue-twisting, mind-bending dialogue from Yogi Berra, or the fact that Jason Alexander (with hair) is standing behind him?
Either way, Berra was on the forefront of the light beer revolution in the '80s and was part of a memorable commercial that played to his strengths.
49. History Will Be Made
Bobby Orr won the 1970 Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins 40 seconds into overtime. This was a moment that can be frozen in time and played over and over again.
This NHL commercial for the playoffs reminds us that history is made in the present and cannot be missed. It’s always interesting to think about sports without some of our favorite moments. Now, we don’t have to.
48. It's Good To Have a Ring
That’s right, Joe Buck; nobody likes you. You call a boring game and you sound like someone has sedated you regardless of the situation.
This ad for the NFL on FOX shows us why it’s good to be a champion. You get pampered like a king.
47. The Mission
The mission: Get the new Nike soccer ball from the highly protected headquarters.
How to accomplish: Use skills, tricks and passing ability to deceive hundreds of ninjas.
Awesome: Hell yes.
46. You Got To Hit Them Where They Ain't
The MLB knows how to market its marquee names. This Ichiro commercial plays with the hitter’s uncanny ability to hit the ball all over the field with ease.
I think it is only fair that other teams get to put more than nine players on the field when he is up to bat. Overall, it's a pretty good commercial.
45. Let's Go, Yanks
Nobody ever accused Yankees fans of being the smartest people on earth. Nobody has ever said that cab drivers were the nicest people, either.
When you put the two together, you get this hilarious display of fans packing into a taxi like a clown car and showing their pride.
44. Shaq vs. Shaq
O’Neal loves himself so much that Reebok decided to feature him in a commercial…10 times.
He was every player on the court, which makes sense for Shaq, considering he thinks he can be a one-man team. It’s fun watching young Shaq do his thing back in the day because he was the best at what he did.
43. Jeter, Woods and Federer Walking in Style
The Gillette boys were rocking down the street to the Bee Gees' “Stayin' Alive”. This was pre- "we know that Tiger sleeps with anything that moves," so he just seemed cool.
All three looked ridiculous and out of their element but Roger Federer was by far the worst. He looked like your dad when he pulls out the '70s gear and tries to look cool.
42. Garnett vs. Everyone
Before he was a member of the Celtics, Kevin Garnett could literally beat anyone, anywhere. So why not bring the whole neighborhood in to try and stop him?
This was a really cool Nike commercial that pretty much sums up “The Big Ticket’s” competitiveness.
41. Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner
This is funny because Steinbrenner and Martin fought like cats and dogs. They never agreed on anything, but at the end of the day, Steinbrenner was a great businessman.
He took the opportunity to joke about an issue that blew up in the papers daily. The only way to beat the story is to be ahead of it.
40. Peyton Manning in the Holiday Spirit
Manning is not an idiot, but it’s great to see him play one.
MasterCard commercials are great, and we all like finding out what they think is “priceless.” You would think, with his salary, Manning could afford to splurge a bit. But then again, these gifts are from the heart.
39. "We Must Protect This House"
This war cry has been adopted by every fraternity football team, and anyone who thinks that wearing Under Armour will make them tough.
This is a great campaign and a phrase that people will be saying for years to come.
38. Roddick Takes His Anger Out on the Ball
Powerade’s “very real power” campaign features a bunch of athletes doing extraordinary things. Now, I’m not sure if this clip is real or not, but either way, it’s sick.
I distinctly remember this commercial because it was something I had never seen before.
37. Jordan Failure
This is Michael Jordan’s attempt at trying to make us think that he is not perfect. It’s a valiant effort, but we know that he is the closest thing to perfect that you can find.
Then again, his modesty is what makes him so likeable. This is the first of many Jordan commercials on this list. He might have the best advertising campaigns in basketball history.
36. Nike "Fate"
Every NFL athlete has a beginning, and his success is not a coincidence; LaDainian Tomlinson and Troy Polamalu are no different.
This is the best of a series of commercials showing the evolution of an NFL player from childhood, to the first time the two meet on the field.
35. Briscoe High School Two-a-Days
Imagine if your dad was Deion Sanders, your friends were Michael Vick, Brian Urlacher and LaDainian Tomlinson and your paperboy was Steve Young.
That is one hell of a high school football team. If this kid doesn’t get better, then he is not trying.
The best part of the whole commercial is when they say Matt Leinart doesn’t matter. That is as true today as it was years ago.
34. Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better
Mia Hamm is one of the most recognizable names in women’s sports history, so why not go toe to toe with one of the world’s best male athletes?
What is missing from the commercial is a round in the batting cages. I’m pretty sure that she would have won that round.
33. Shaq Meets the Legends
Back in 1993, a spry Shaquille O’Neal was vaunted as the best center prospect in ages. In order to get into the elite club (Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), he had to prove he belonged.
Apparently, tearing down the rim is not good enough for these Hall of Famers. It was our introduction to the beginning of a long and dominating career.
I think he is in the club by now.
32. 2010 World Cup
The World Cup is a special time for the sports world. As the commercial depicts, for one month every four years, nothing else matters but soccer (football, for my international readers).
For a moment, everything makes sense, there is nothing wrong with the world and we all sit and watch the game that we love.
This ad captures that moment and leaves us feeling good.
31. What Should I Do?
What should you do? Stop making stupid, narcissistic commercials for starters. People will forever remember this because of its timing.
We get it—you left Cleveland and everyone was critical. What should you do? How about win, because we love winners. What fans don’t like is someone insulting them like they did something wrong.
Are people too critical? For sure. But he also needs to learn how to deal with the media.
30. The Olympics
People are enthralled by the Olympics because there are so many different events and athletes.
We all watch and play the games on TV, but beyond the athletes are the people that train well after everyone has left the gym. They help inspire others and make sports special.
29. History of Soccer Celebrations
Roger Milla changed the way that soccer players celebrate a goal. Now, the floodgates have opened and everything is fair play.
This has brought a ton of creativity to the game and made it fun. Somehow we are supposed to draw the connection between this and Coca-Cola. I’m not sure why, but I find myself on the way to the store to buy some.
28. Lil Penny
Back when Penny Hardaway was good (a loooong time ago), he had Lil Penny (Chris Rock) by his side to make annoying remarks about everything.
He was the alter ego who would get on everyone’s nerves. I remember finding it very creepy as a kid, but I’m no longer eight years old.
27. Nike Shox Soccer Streaker
Apparently, if you wear Nike Shox, nobody can catch you. My only gripe with this funny streaker video is that the guards chasing him might be the most unathletic group of people I have ever seen.
Nike did a great job with this commercial because I own a pair of those sneaker…and wear clothes.
26. "Maybe It's My Fault"...
This commercial sums up everything you need to know about Michael Jordan. Yes, he is the best basketball player of all time, but it is not because he was born that way.
He makes it a point of telling us that he worked harder than anyone every day of his life to get where he was.
This dominance made us think that he didn’t even have to try. On the contrary, he reminds us that those who think that’s the case are just making excuses.
25. See Lance Ride
I liken Armstrong to Forrest Gump in this commercial. He just keeps riding and riding, 'cause he felt like it.
Say what you will about Lance Armstrong, but he inspires millions of people and continues to do what he loves despite the criticism.
This ad is just another example of his far-reaching impact.
24. "Cut That Meat, Cut That Meat"
We are fans of men and women who run fast, throw balls around and scores baskets, so why can’t it be the other way around?
Peyton Manning did one of the funniest renditions of a backwards world—one in which athletes root on the people that do everyday jobs.
It sort of shows the complete irrational behavior we have toward athletes.
23. Grant Hill and Tim Duncan Making Some Extra Money
If the NBA doesn’t work out its labor negotiations before the season starts, you might be seeing more and more athletes mowing lawns. This is what Grant Hill and Tim Duncan did the last time there was a lockout.
I’d like to see Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose in the next installment of this commercial whenever it comes out.
22. The Power of Gatorade
The people at Gatorade are always trying to get us to drink their product, with montages of athletes dominating their particular sport.
Here they took it one step further by showing us what would happen if you don't drink Gatorade. The results may surprise you.
21. "No, I Believe That's a Zebra"
The Budweiser Clydesdales have been the centerpiece of many of the beer’s most classic ads; putting the game of football and the majestic animals into one ad makes them even better.
The horses are waiting for a review from the official (a zebra), while cowboys look on. From this angle, it looks like he got two hooves down.
20. Brett Favre Can't Decide About Anything
It is not easy to poke fun at yourself, so I give Brett Favre a lot of credit. He took the negative attitudes people have toward his retirement indecision and made it into a big joke.
Buying a TV is a big decision so I can’t blame the man for standing there all night long. Good job, Sears. We got him.
When you put a big man like Larry Johnson in an old lady's dress, you know you are watching gold.
Johnson carried the nickname "Grandmama" for the rest of his career. Do you think he regrets doing this commercial now? I have no idea, but it was certainly iconic.
18. Brazilian National Team in the Airport
We have all had terrible delays at airports that seem to have no end in sight. You can sit around and mope about them, or you can get up and do something.
For the Brazilian national team, kicking a ball around was preferable to sitting in those uncomfortable chairs. When you've got skills, you’re not going to let them go to waste.
Watch what ensues.
17. Nike Freestyle Commercial
There is a difference between a good basketball player, and one that can break your ankles. The players in the video have incredible handles and can do some things with the ball that is nothing short of art.
The rhythm and beat are what put the commercial over the top and give it that special touch.
16. Soccer Legends in the Street
Who wouldn’t want to get a pickup game going with the best soccer players of all time?
This commercial is awesome because anyone who has been around the world knows that soccer games actually do start this spontaneously, and they are hardly played on nice fields.
15. Jordan vs. Jordan
What is the only way to beat Michael Jordan? Make him play himself. There are two different MJs. There is pre-championship Jordan and post-championship Jordan.
The younger man was faster and far more explosive around the rim. The older and more seasoned Jordan perfected the turnaround jumper, played defense and knew how to play the game.
It’s a masterfully well-done commercial and a fun one to watch.
14. Earl and Tiger
This one has a special meaning. After Tiger Woods’ infidelities, his return to golf did not come without controversy. He then did a commercial with his deceased father’s voice, wanting to know if he learned anything.
It is a pretty serious commercial that will be viewed for ages.
13. The Tale of Michael Jordan, Told by Spike Lee
There are few people today that are still captivated by oral tales. These stories are reserved for magical creatures and make-believe worlds.
Spike Lee’s rendition of the legend of Michael Jordan has everyone around him in awe and asking for more. The way he tells it is actually entertaining and leaves us wondering who is next.
12. Bird and Magic Go One-on-One
Magic Johnson comes all the way to French Lick, Indiana to show Larry Bird that he has new shoes.
Of course Bird already has the identical shoe in a different color, so he doesn’t care very much and immediately challenges Johnson to a one-on-one game.
I hope he at least offered him a drink or snack once the game was over, because Los Angeles to French Lick is one hell of a drive.
11. The Bud Bowl
What is better than two beers fighting it out on the gridiron? Yup…nothing.
Beer and football is why half of the men in this country get out of bed each morning, and that might be generous.
This is one of the first major beer commercials, and it still has a lasting impact.
10. Tiger Woods Golf Ball Tricks
This is not edited or cut in any way. Woods is doing these tricks and making it look easy.
It is interesting to look at Woods before everything hit the fan. He was young, marketable, interesting and fun. Hmmm...Maybe that was the problem.
Whatever. It’s still a very cool commercial.
9. Bo Knows
Arguably the most gifted athlete on the planet for a period of time, Bo knew baseball and football. But what else did “Bo know”? Apparently everything but hockey.
A lot of people have many different opinions of Bo Jackson, but few dispute his insane abilities.
8. The Michael Vick Experience
Before Vick went to prison, he had some of the best advertisements on the air. This is one of my favorite commercials, hands down because I would pay a ton of money to be able to ride on the “Michal Vick Experience”.
Now, as a pocket passer, that ride would be a lot less exciting.
7. Charles Barkley Is Not a Role Model
As much as he sounds like a jerk, Barkley isn’t necessarily wrong. The often outspoken big man is something that most people can’t come to grips with: only an athlete.
So when he says he is not a role model, he means it, and wants everyone to know that he is going to do and say what he wants. Cover the children’s ears quickly!
6. 2010 World Cup "Write the Future"
The best part about this commercial is that it stays true to the real world. One little slip-up is the difference between eternal glory and being "that guy who used to play."
Legends are born in big moments, and these athletes know when they are taking place. That is what made Jordan, Woods and Robert Horry great.
5. Chicks Dig the Long Ball
Yes they do.
This is one of the most iconic sports commercials because we now know what Mark McGwire took to hit all those long balls.
From what we can tell, Glavine and Maddux used good old-fashioned hard work to start jacking home runs.
The phrase now lives in infamy and we have television to thank.
4. Jordan vs. Bird for a Big Mac
Ask people what are the best sports commercial of all time, and you are going to get a lot of different responses.
Still, many of those responses are going to contain the McDonald's commercial with Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. It is two of the best ever going one-on-one in our favorite driveway game.
It’s a masterpiece.
I give Yao Ming a lot of credit for being in a big-time commercial as soon as he came to the United States.
It has everything. It is funny, and most importantly, makes fun of New Yorkers. This is the type of stuff that makes me believe that Ming can get into the Hall of Fame as a contributor.
He brought culture and swagger from China and was a true international superstar.
2. Mean Joe Green Coke Commercial
This is one of the most iconic commercial in sports history. "Mean Joe" Greene takes the Coca-Cola and gives the kid his jersey.
There is no punch line, no gimmicks and no subliminal messages. It is the epitome of a kid idolizing an athlete and giving him his well-marketed soft drink.
1. Be Like Mike
This is the most iconic commercial and song in sports history. If you couldn’t figure out how to express your love for MJ, this was it.
BE LIKE MIKE. Simple, pure, perfect and something that we all still use in our daily sports vocabulary.
We all want to be like Mike.