Small businesses aren't exactly known for stealing the show during the Super Bowl — commercials for this most coveted TV spot, especially those that viewers will discuss and admire for years to come, are almost always the handiwork of huge brands with millions of dollars at their disposal.
This year, however, accounting software company Intuit QuickBooks shook things up by giving one lucky small business, Round Lake, New York-based Death Wish Coffee, a shot at the big time through its contest, "Small Business Big Game." The grand-prize-winning coffee business not only gets to air its very own commercial during the 2016 Super Bowl, but Intuit QuickBooks covered all of the ad's expenses, from development and production to the cost of the TV spot itself. The commercial will be the only one from a small business to air nationally, according to Adweek.
Death Wish Coffee's commercial is an inspiration to small businesses everywhere — even if your operation is small, you can still think big. To inspire you to do the same, we've rounded up some of our favorite, brilliantly branded Super Bowl commercials from the past few years. You may not be able to produce your own Super Bowl commercial, but you can learn a lot from these amazing ads.
Death Wish Coffee, "Storm's a-Brewin'" (2016)
Death Wish Coffee prides itself on having the "world's strongest coffee," thanks to its signature combination of the right beans and roasting process, which ties in perfectly with the commercial's theme — Vikings battling a potentially deadly storm in the middle of the sea (which is actually just a man's morning coffee). The commercial's stunning cinematography was done by Claudio Miranda, who won the Oscar for his cinematography work for "Life of Pi" in 2013. And the commercial has a perfectly punny title, which is always a plus.
Heinz, "Wiener Stampede" (2016)
Heinz released its Super Bowl commercial early this year, just ahead of the Big Game, and it's already got everyone buzzing about it. In the commercial, dachshunds dressed in hot dog costumes run toward people dressed as giant Heinz condiment bottles and lick their faces. The clip is more than just a cute commercial — it's got a simple but brilliant message behind it, too. Anselmo Ramos, founder and chief creative officer of David, the agency behind the adorable ad, told Adweek that the commercial was meant to be a fun way "to communicate that hot dogs can't resist the great taste of Heinz."
Always, "#LikeAGirl" (2015)
This fiercely feminist and thoughtful commercial was exactly the kind of ad the Super Bowl needed. Always went far beyond advertising the effectiveness of its feminine products and instead chose to challenge the stereotypes young girls face by calling the phrase "like a girl" into question, which is often used as an insult. The powerful commercial showed how different people view the phrase and helped the brand launch a huge campaign all about boosting girls' self-confidence, which it still promotes today.
Newcastle Brown Ale, "Band of Brands" (2015)
In 2015, Newcastle Brown Ale challenged the idea that every brand has to spend millions of dollars just to get publicity during the Big Game. Instead, the beer brand recruited 37 different brands to share the cost of one ad that would promote each brand throughout the TV spot. The commercial starts out slow and ends with the two actors, who play a couple that just moved into a new home, rushing to fit in all of the sponsors. It's not visually arresting, adorable or moving, but this commercial is certainly one of the most clever and unique ads in Super Bowl history.
Budweiser, "Puppy Love" (2014)
This list wouldn't be complete without a Budweiser commercial. The beer brand has been consistently putting out highly anticipated and beloved Super Bowl commercials for decades, and this one is no exception. The winning combination of adorable puppies and the brand's iconic Clydesdale horses was enough to tug on every viewer's heartstrings, and Budweiser cleverly topped it off with a simple but effective hashtag, #BestBuds, to incorporate social media into its campaign.
Doritos, "Goat 4 Sale" (2013)
For the past decade, Doritos (owned by Frito-Lay) has held a highly anticipated commercial contest called "Crash the Super Bowl," which allows fans and aspiring filmmakers to create and enter their own Doritos commercials. Fans can then vote for their favorite commercials, which air during the game. In 2013, "Goat 4 Sale" was one of the top finalists in the competition, and while it didn't win the grand prize, it is still one of the funniest and most memorable commercials to air during the Super Bowl. The ad, despite its simplicity, smartly tied in one of the top memes of the year — screaming goats — which easily made it a fan favorite.
Taco Bell, "Viva Young" (2013)
In recent years, many brands have spent all of their time and energy trying to relate to millennials. But with this commercial, Taco Bell found a humorous way to appeal to every generation of viewers, from teens all the way to the elderly. The ad depicts a group of seniors breaking out of their retirement home to go enjoy a night on the town, complete with pranks, a trip to the club and, of course, a stop at Taco Bell before night's end. They act exactly the way teens are stereotypically depicted in the movies and TV shows, and it's all topped off by just the right soundtrack — a Spanish-language translation of fun.'s "We Are Young" — creating the perfect ad for the fast-food brand.
Honda CRV, "Matthew Broderick's Day Off" (2012)
Fans of the '80s classic "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" were thrilled to see this Honda commercial during the 2012 Super Bowl, in which the film's star, Matthew Broderick, recreates a mini version of the movie. In the ad, Broderick calls out sick from work and enjoys a day of adventures in his car (a Honda CRV, of course) in the city, narrowly avoiding his agent and incorporating iconic quotes and new takes on classic scenes from the movie. The entire ad was a genius way for the car company to incorporate beloved pop culture into its marketing strategy, and was a huge success.
Volkswagen, "The Force" (2011)
Honda isn't the only car company to incorporate classic pop culture references into its commercials — in 2011, Volkswagen created an adorable commercial for its 2012 Passat that appealed to sci-fi lovers everywhere, thanks to its clever use of "Star Wars." In the commercial, a young kid dressed as Darth Vader tries all day to use the Force to move objects around him, getting progressively disappointed and frustrated when he's unable to do so — that is, until his father comes home and parks the car in the driveway. As young Darth Vader focuses his powers on the car, his dad clicks the car button on his keychain, causing the car to turn on and convince his kid that he really is a Jedi. The commercial is simple, cute and funny, and was ultimately one of the most talked-about ads that year.
Google, "Parisian Love" (2010)
Probably the most fascinating aspect of this commercial is that it wasn't even made with the Super Bowl in mind. Rather, Google released the ad online in November 2009, saw how popular the video was on its YouTube channel and decided to promote it to a larger audience via the game, according to CNN. The ad wasn't a huge, visually arresting clip — instead, it depicted the life of an American studying abroad in Paris, falling in love, getting married and raising a family, all through the lens of Google's search bar.