Fly the Branded Skies


Well, the Big Game is less than a week away and, like everyone else, Fly the Branded Skies is taking advantage of the buzz without all the hassle of paying a few million dollars for a sponsorship. This is an index to airline Super Bowl ads of the past 46 years. It draws extensively on Adland’s extensive archive of Super Bowl spots, with a few added in from YouTube.

It looks like 2011 will mark the fifth year in a row in which no airlines ran national ads during the SuperBowl. There have been some regional buys in the past decade, but for the most part airline Super Bowl advertising has followed the trend of airline television advertising in general: there’s a lot less of it than there used to be.

Like all airline television advertising, airline Super Bowl spots tend to be heavily retail-focused. If you watch all of the spots below, you’ll get pretty tired of seeing people in bathing suits with fares to Fort Lauderdale superimposed over them. In compiling the list, the big surprise for me was how often USAir shows up on it.

1967 Unknown.
1968 Unknown.
1969 TWA / TWA / TWA / United
1970 Unknown.
1971 Unknown.
1972 Unknown.
1973 Unknown.
1974 Unknown.
1975 Unknown.
1976 United
1977 Unknown.
1978 Unknown.
1979 Eastern / Eastern / Pan Am / United
1980 American / United
1981 Unknown.
1982 Eastern / USAir
1983 Eastern / Eastern
1984 Eastern / TWA
1985 Eastern
1986 Midway / United / USAir
1987 American / Pan Am Shuttle / United
1988 American / Delta / Pan Am
1989 Continental / Delta / Delta
1990 Delta / Delta / United
1991 Continental / United
1992 United / USAir
1993 British Airways / Continental / USAir / USAir
1994 TWA
1995 Continental / USAir
1996 Unknown.
1997 Unknown.
1998 Unknown.
1999 Alaska / Qantas / United / United / Southwest / TWA
2000 Unknown.
2001 Southwest / Southwest
2002 Unknown.
2003 Unknown.
2004 Aloha / jetBlue
2005 American / jetBlue
2006 United
2007 Unknown.
2008 American
2009 Frontier
2010 Unknown.
2011 To be continued…

National spots are in bold. In some cases I’ve tried to guess which spots are national and which are regional but it’s not always easy. I’ve made the assumption that spots that advertise specific fares are usually regional. The later in the list you see the word “Unknown,” the more likely it is that there were indeed no airline spots during that particular Super Bowl.

A few special picks:

  • My pick for the best spot: United’s “Dragon,” from 2006. Part of Fallon’s beautiful “It’s time to fly” campaign.
  • My pick for the worst spot: Continental’s “Bake Sale,” from 1995. Really, Continental? “Bake sale?”
  • My pick for the most ironic spot: Eastern’s “No Future,” from 1983.
  • Spots that are interesting even though they’re not for passenger airlines: Boeing’s “Almost 60 Years” (1975) and UPS’s “Clean Planes” (1986).