You may have heard that the biggest football match of the year is taking place this Sunday – it’s ‘American football’ for those in the UK. But it’s not just Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs: The Super Bowl is the most watched sports event in the United States as much for advertising as for the game.
As tech publications like this one like to point out, Apple made perhaps the most memorable ad in Super Bowl history way back in 1984. This often leads one to think that Apple and the Super Bowl go hand in hand, but in reality, the Apple’s history with the game is pretty short. However, every year we hope Apple uses the biggest stage to introduce or preview a new product. And every year we are disappointed.
But Super Bowl LVII might be different. After 10 years of Pepsi, Apple Music is sponsoring the Super Bowl halftime show, which features Rihanna’s first major live appearance since 2016. Suffice to say, it will be seen by an estimated 100 million people, one of the largest viewers Apple has never had. It’s Apple’s first time sponsoring the show, so we don’t really know what to expect. Will Rihanna wear AirPods? Will MacBooks grace the stage? And more importantly, will Apple run an ad during the big game?
Before we get to Sunday, here’s a timeline of Apple’s Super Bowl announcements.
Apples 1984 ad is often called the bigger commercial in Super Bowl history. Directed by Ridley Scott of “Alien” and “Blade Runner” fame, the 60-Second commercial aired only once, as the first commercial going into halftime of Super Bowl XVIII. Its theme was based on George Orwell’s novel, 1984, and the commercial’s dark, dystopian imagery struck a chord during an era of populist conservatism and the Cold War. It was designed to generate uproar upon the announcement of the Macintosh on January 24, 1984, and it certainly achieved its goal.
Scott’s direction has left a lasting impression on popular culture, so much so that “Apple” and “Super Bowl” are synonymous, even though this ad didn’t feature a single Apple product.
In 1985, Apple, well aware of how effective 1984 a second ad was aired during Super Bowl XIX. Titled Lemmingthe commercial was directed by Tony Scott, brother of Ridley, and has a similar tone to to promote a new software suite called Macintosh officedesigned to connect a Macintosh to a printer and file server.
The ad tried to capture the tone of 1984 and it definitely left an impression on viewers, but not what Apple intended. With a massive advertising campaign that included seat cushions during the big game and full-page newspaper ads warning viewers to skip the fourth quarter bathroom break—Lemming viewers did not like it. People watching found the ad depressing and offensive, and nowhere near as enticing 1984.
After Lemming, it was 15 years before Apple decided to debut a new commercial during the Super Bowl. The ad read HAL by 2001: A Space Odysseyand it came at a time when there was growing concern that computers would stop working because of the Bug of the year 2000and chaos would ensue.
Apple used the ad to promote Mac immunity to the Y2K bug, and as it turned out 12 months later, Y2K was much ado about nothing. HAL ended up being the last ad Apple made specifically for the Super Bowl.
I Fought the Law (2003)
While not technically an Apple ad, Pepsi’s 2004 commercial announcing its partnership with iTunes certainly looked like one. Featuring a Green Day cover of Sonny Curtis’ “I Fought the Law,” the ad featured 16 teenagers who were being sued by the RIAA for illegally downloading music from the Internet during Napster’s popularity. Ironically, it’s the only Super Bowl ad here to actually feature an Apple product, not an iPod but an iMac G4. The announcement and promotional campaign were a success and helped propel the iTunes Store to new heights.
It’s been 24 years since the HAL commercial and Apple is returning to the Super Bowl, but this time it’s the main sponsor of the Super Bowl show within a show, the halftime presentation. Apple calls it’s the Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show with Rihanna, who didn’t perform live in public since 2018.
Apple has been advertising its presence at Super Bowl LVII throughout the month within Apple Music Rihanna’s road to halftime section, which includes:
Halftime Hype Radio: 10 part series looking back at past halftime shows. Rihanna Revisited Radio: Eight-part series reflecting on Rihanna’s music catalogue. Live from Super Bowl LVII: Daily live broadcasts that “capture the excitement” of the game and halftime show. Playlists of NFL players and teams. An interview with Rihanna on Apple Music Radio.
Apple is also rumored to be making a behind the scenes documentary which will air on Apple Music. And the performance will likely be available to stream after the show.
But will there also be a new Apple announcement during the big game? So far there are no rumors that Apple is running a commercial, but Apple probably would like to keep such a thing under wraps. Also, it’s common for the sponsor of the halftime show to run an ad during the Super Bowl: Pepsi, Bridgestone, Sprint, AOL, and others all had separate ads in addition to sponsorship. And Apple has been running constant ads for Undo Messaging and Apple TV+ during the 2023 playoffs, so a Super Bowl spot is definitely possible.
And the timing is right: Ridley Scott’s next film Napoleon will air on Apple TV+ later this year. So maybe Apple had him direct a sequel 1984? We’ll find out on Sunday.