Van Halen: The Story of Pepsi & The Super Bowl

How Van Halen Ended Up In a Super Bowl Commercial

Rock N’ Roll True Stories published a story last week about Van Halen and the Super Bowl in 1993. Soft drink maker Pepsi unleashed a new product at the time called Crystal Pepsi and unveiled it during the Super Bowl using the Van Halen song ‘Right Now.’ So, how did Van Halen end up in the ad? Check out the full story below!

Apart from the game, the super bowl is always known for the commercials and half time shows. Living in Canada growing up we’d get a lot of the horrible canadian commercials mixed in with the american commercials so i wouldn’t get to see all the cool commercials when i was a kid. Not so much of a problem these days with youtube,, but i digress. Back in 1993 Pepsi used the superbowl to buy airtime to unviel a new product of theres called Crystal Pepsi, which was a caffeine and artificial flavor free version of their soft drink that was also clear instead of caramel brown. Using the tagline you’ve never seen a taste like this Pepsi was trying to capitlize on the so called “Clear craze” at the time. buzzwords like “pure” and “clear” were thrown around everywhere and used to market products ranging from soap to gasoline.

Hailed as the taste of the future, Crystal Pepsi was anything but. The company pumped a lot of money into the marketing campaign for the product and while the test markets showed a lot of promise, it ended up being a colossal failure. in April of 1992 Crystal Pepsi was released in a few test markets and the initial response was quite positive. Based on that feedback the company wanted to expand the product’s availability to be available nationwide by December of 1992,a month or so before the Superbowl. We’ll talk more about the failure of the product later on in the video.

Let’s talk about the van halen part of the story. The first time a lot of people heard about Crystal Pepsi was during the Superbowl. Pepsi bought air time to promote the product. The ad was memorable because it featured Van Halen’s hit song Right Now from their 1991 album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

Given that the song’s message is about being present and living in the moment and not being afraid of change, it seemed like a fitting track for the commercial. Originally Van Halen wanted no part of the commercial, but Pepsi didn’t care they told the band they were going to get outside musicians to re-record the song and use the cover version of the track in the commercial. Eddie Van Halen would tell guitar world in 1996 “The only reason we gave Pepsi the music was because they were going to use the song anyway. They would have just recut it with studio musicians, like they do for some TV movies because they can’t use the original. ”

If they use the original recording, they’ve got to pay, but if they don’t, all they do is give credit to the artist and then pay the studio cats. “Pepsi told us they were going to do that, so we said, ‘Hey wait a minute, we might as well get the money.’ I ain’t that proud, you know. I’m not going to say, ‘No, go ahead, rip us off. And keep the money, too!’” It was reported that van halen was paid 2 million to license the song and while they pocketed a lot of money, some longtime fans of the band saw it as a sell out move. The commercial was largely inspired by the music video van halen cut for right now back in 1991 with text on screen trying to sell the product. The song itself dated back almost ten years prior to 1982 or 1983. According to Eddie the song sat around and nobody wanted to do anything with it unti lthe early 90’s. According to the book i want my MTV the song’s lyrical content was a drastic departure for Van halen with sammy hagar revealing “I was tired of writing cheap sex songs,” “Eddie and I wanted to get serious and talk about world issues.” The music video for Right Now would take inspiration from the Phil Collins video for Another day in paradise that used words on the screen to describe what was happening around the world. For example “right now, someone is working too hard for minimum wage” or “right now oil companies and old men are in control.” Frontman Sammy Hagar hated the idea for the video. He was worried people wouldn’t even listen to the lyrics of the song as they would be too busy reading the subtitles. In fact one of the lines in the video reads maybe we should pay attention to the lyrics. It would be van halen’s label head mo ostin who tried to talk h