Broncos star Von Miller just launched his latest ad — this one a spot for Old Spice, which was probably funnier in concept than in execution and is unlikely to become a pop-culture classic. (Sorry, Von.) But that got us to thinking. There have actually been a lot of NFL player ads that have hit the zeitgeist over the years, including some from the Denver home team. Some are old, some are newer, but all take up precious real estate in the memories of Americans. After all, life and love may come and go, but annoying jingles are forever.
So what are those NFL player commercials that have become — or are becoming — the juggernauts of American advertising pop-culture reference? Here’s a top-ten trip down Madison Avenue’s memory lane.
10. Peyton Manning for Nationwide Insurance
Okay, you know this had to be on the list, especially here in Denver. But it’s not just at Mile High (or in the Manning kitchen) where fans are singing the jingle. These days, Peyton Manning is almost as much a spokesperson for chicken parm sandwiches as for, you know, actual companies with products to sell.
9. Terry Bradshaw for LectricShave
Wait, Terry Bradshaw for what, now? Sure, this product might not be all that well known, but a lot of TV viewers remember this ad, featuring Steelers QBs Bradshaw and Mike Kruczek trying to act like they’re having a conversation about pre-shave lotion and how that strains to relate in some way to playing football. Then, at the end, they laugh not so much at the lame joke that they just had to recite, but at how dumb this whole idea was.
8. Ickey Woods for GEICO
In only a few years, you’re going to forget almost everything about this ad: that it’s for GEICO insurance featuring Bengals running back Ickey Woods. But you’re going to remember this: “Get some cold cuts…get some cold cuts…get some cold cuts.” And that’s all that’s important.
7. Dick Butkus for Ford Vans
There is literally no way that this commercial could be more 1979. Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus wearing cowboy boots, brown slacks and a tight dress shirt unbuttoned to his navel? Check, check and check. Weird, awkward and featuring objectification of women? Check. That it’s actually a TV ad for the sheer awesomeness of pinstriped vans? Wow, check. The only thing missing is a CB radio, and I’m pretty sure that’s one there on the dash.
6. Joe Namath for Beautymist Pantyhose
If this were a list of the most “What the hell was that?” moments in NFL advertising, this commercial for pantyhose featuring no less than legendary Jets QB Joe Namath would be at the top. The ad pans up a pair of nice legs, only to end on Broadway Joe’s craggy mug. That’s the point, of course — that if the pantyhose can make Joe’s legs look good, “imagine what they’ll do for yours,” but still…put some pants on, man.
Continue to count down our five top picks for the best commercials by NFL players.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.