The Budweiser Clydesdale horses have been around since 1935, when Budweiser received them as a gift to celebrate the historic end of alcohol prohibition. Since then, they’ve been a part of every American family’s home thanks to their appearances in TV commercials, especially during the Super Bowl.
Usually, Budweiser airs its Clydesdales commercials throughout the year because they are fan favorites, but there is one advertisement that was played on television only once: their September 11 commercial. When you see it, you’ll understand why it never aired again…
Budweiser is synonymous with two things: American beer and Clydesdales. The horses have become the mascot for the brand over the years, and their appearance in Budweiser commercials isn’t just expected by TV viewers everywhere—it’s adored!
The Clydesdales were gifted to Budweiser after Prohibition ended in 1935. The brand was founded in 1876, so the post-Temperance adoption of the horses wasn’t just a marketing tactic, it was symbolic of Budweiser’s triumphant return to business.
There’s a good chance that if you’ve watched a Super Bowl any time over the last several decades, the majestic Budweiser Clydesdales have graced your television screen. People can’t seem to get enough of these heartfelt commercials that highlight the American blue collar lifestyle.
As is expected with Super Bowl commercials, these advertisements are exceptionally (and usually prohibitively) expensive, not just to produce, but especially to air. That’s why Budweiser usually runs them several times to make up for their cost.
There is, however, one such ad that was only ever played once—during Super Bowl XXXVI on February 3, 2002—it was the Super Bowl immediately following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Once you see it, you’ll understand why…
The commercial was intended to memorialize the victims of the devastating terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. It was a frightening time for the country, as anyone who lived through it would remember, which made Budweiser’s choice of narrative all the more provocative…
With that in mind, Budweiser ran a powerful commercial during the Super Bowl. It began with a jockey getting the horses ready for a ride. Upon first glance, it likely didn’t seem very different from the company’s previous Super Bowl commercials…
After readying the Clydesdales, two men and the horses left a barn in the mountains in what appeared to be a rural area. There was no indication of where they were headed or what they were going to do.
In the next shot, a concerned-looking barber peered out of the front of his shop to see the Clydesdales headed down a cobblestone road. He appeared to be intrigued—but proud—to see the majestic horses marching along his street.
Not a moment later, the video cut to an aerial shot of the Clydesdales on the Brooklyn Bridge, which connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York City. Then, viewers watched the majestic horses gallop toward something…
The commercial cut to a shot that showed the Clydesdales trotting in perfect unison. Not only did they look beautiful, but they appeared to be in a hurry. Still, it wasn’t clear exactly what they were doing in the city, and where exactly they were headed.
Finally, the proud Clydesdales arrived in a park overlooking the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline—and they took a knee. These majestic horses had visited the Big Apple to show their respect for the city of New York.
The commercial wasn’t produced with excessive special effects or other forms of Hollywood wizardry. It was also shot on location. “We filmed in New York City,” confirmed Bob Lachky, the former vice president of Anheuser-Busch Global Creative.
The crew actually had to obtain special permission to film the commercial. “We had a helicopter going over the Brooklyn Bridge. Mayor Giuliani let us into the city—the only film company of any sort right after 9-11,” Lachky added.
It was an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. “To actually come into air space with our helicopter to film the Clydesdale,” Lachky began. “The hitch coming into Battery Park and it was amazing… just amazing.”
While the commercial only aired once, it became popular thanks to people sharing it on the Internet. Budweiser even aired an updated version on September 11, 2011, which was the tenth anniversary of the attacks.
It’s also worth noting that, if you watch the commercial closely, you’ll see that the iconic Budweiser logo is conspicuously absent from the footage until the very end. Clearly, they were trying to make a statement that was more important than merely “drink this beer!”
Just watch the commercial for yourself, and you’ll definitely understand why the Budweiser executives decided to air it a single time. When the Clydesdales see the New York City skyline, it’s difficult not to get emotional by their reaction…
It’s incredible to think that Budweiser used its budget for such an amazing commercial, only to air it once. What a touching tribute to those affected in the September 11 attacks.
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