A photo of a man wearing a train conductor univorm sitting in a train engine and looking out the window.
LL COOL J operates the returning Coors Light Chill Train in this Super Bowl ad created by VCU Brandcenter alumni.

In the rarefied airtime of Super Bowl ads, VCU Brandcenter alums get plenty of attention

From a genie in a (beer) bottle to a cookie twist, more than two dozen graduates of the renowned graduate program put their creative spins on this year’s spots.

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Chris Colliton and Kevin Weir are no strangers to the world of Super Bowl ads. The alums of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Brandcenter made the fake Crocodile Dundee movie for Tourism Australia in 2018. Last year, they partnered with DraftKings to create the High Stakes Beer Ad, the first commercial that viewers could bet on. Both spots were not only memorable but award-winning.

This year, for yesterday’s Super Bowl LVIII, the executive creative directors at Droga5 heralded the heroic return of the Coors Light Chill Train. For years, the brand used the iconic beer train in all of its advertising, but Coors retired its frosty locomotive more than a decade ago.

“We wanted to bring it back in the biggest way possible, on the biggest stage possible – updated for 2024, of course,” Colliton said. “We’ve always loved the Coors Light Beer Train. It’s an iconic part of beer advertising that has a nostalgic magic to it that people and culture love. But we needed the right moment to bring it back ... and we needed to do it in a truly unforgettable way.”

The commercial features the beloved chill train, conducted by legendary rapper LL Cool J, traversing the country leaving cold Coors Lights in its wake. The signature Colliton/Weir twist that makes it unforgettable? “Passengers” who purchased tickets “ride” the train — thanks to CGI.

“All the tickets for the train were scooped up within one minute of being released,” Weir said. “The people who secured seats [were] added into the train using CGI, and then a special, slo-mo version of the ad [was] released on Super Bowl Sunday. This [gives] everyone aboard ultimate bragging rights.”

The train crashes into a house at the end, but that part was mostly real.

“We actually built the house from scratch in a South African warehouse because we needed to destroy it — which we did,” Colliton said. “There was a life-size truck, shaped like a massive train, that we drove through the front door into the living room. We only had one take, which we filmed from three angles. For safety reasons, no one was allowed on set except for the stunt drivers.”

Weir noted that “Super Bowl projects are always very special because you know everyone in the country will be watching. It’s definitely stressful ... but also rewarding if all goes to plan.”

The VCU Brandcenter, a graduate program for advertising and branding, is a breeding ground for future Super Bowl commercial makers. Most workers in the advertising industry never have the chance to work on the high-profile spots, but this year’s Super Bowl featured 20 campaigns that 27 Brandcenter alumni helped create. Here’s a look at some of them.

Selling your home doesnt have to hurt

Instead of destroying a house, Hannah Hugeback’s ad for Opendoor followed a family as it tried to sell its home during the halftime show — in real time.

“This idea was developed from truths and pain points of selling a house — 40% of Americans say that selling their home was harder than they anticipated, and more than a third actually cried during the process,” Hugeback said. “We wanted to show that Opendoor takes the historically difficult process of selling a home and makes it easy.”

The initial briefing from Opendoor wasn’t to create a Super Bowl spot, but the creative team at mischief  — Hugeback’s firm — developed a concept so rich with the opportunity to gain awareness on a mass scale that it elevated the ad to Super Bowl worthiness.

“We’re told to expect the entire home-selling process to suck really bad,” Hugeback said. “So we’re hoping the take-away from our Super Bowl spot is that with Opendoor, it doesn’t have to. So many other facets of our lives have been made easier over the years, so it’s only fair that home selling gets its chance to shine. Opendoor makes selling your home so much easier.”

Come on, baby, lets do the twist

Eleven years ago, Oreo secured its place in social media history with its viral “Dunk in the Dark“ tweet, a spontaneous reaction to the 2013 Super Bowl blackout. Since then, the cookie giant has embraced its role as a leader in getting playful with how brands show up on social media.

“For the 2024 Super Bowl, we knew we needed to adapt the approach that had made ‘Dunk in the Dark’ so successful to a social landscape that, let’s be real, hardly looks the same as it did in 2013,” said Brianne Johnson, strategy director at Dentsu Creative. “The team knew we couldn’t settle for just another reactive social approach, where brands post sassy and brand-unrelated takes on whatever is happening during the game. Instead, we saw an opportunity to put a social twist on our campaign and turn game day into a social campaign moment of its own.”

As director of integrated strategy and lead strategist for the social campaign and gameday social activation, Johnson and her team worked closely with The Martin Agency – the lead created the spot and included Brandcenter alum Johnny Roelofs. Johnson’s team also worked with PR agency Weber Shandwick as well as Dentsu’s Digital Accelerator, the organic social arm that runs @Oreo accounts.

More than just making a commercial, the project was about creating and spreading a new consumer behavior and a playful way of using Oreo cookies to make decisions.

“Funny enough, you go in thinking that it’s just the ad that matters,” Johnson said, “but it’s really the whole web of different agencies and comms efforts that determine whether the message dies with the spot on game day or lives beyond it. Making a Super Bowl campaign successful is just as much about the foreplay and afterplay, and that’s where social comes in. We got to playfully adapt the spot to new channels and formats … all of which helps us nurture the Oreo ‘twist’ as an actual, playful fan behavior, not just another brand stunt.”

The biggest candy news of all time?

Erich & Kallman’s ad for Reese’s peanut butter cups teased chocolate and peanut butter connoisseurs with the “biggest candy news of all time: Reeses is changing their peanut butter cups.”

“We wanted to lean into the intense love that fans have for original Reese’s peanut butter cups, so showing their anger and excitement at the big news felt like a no-brainer,” said creative director Jason Goldberg. “We had a few different versions of this construct but landed on the simple “YES!” and “NO!” formula because it led to the most laughs internally.”

If you missed the spot, have no fear. Reese’s is not changing its flagship candy, but it is introducing a version with caramel.

Goldberg offered this behind-the-scenes tidbit: “Getting the dog to hula-hoop was a lot easier than you’d think.”

Wishes? Its his thing!

When developing the Bud Light spot, art director Adam DuBrueler and his copywriting partner at Anomaly NY asked themselves what would make a night out easier to enjoy. How about a genie who grants all your wishes?

“This was a crazy process that started on a phone call with my partner,” DuBrueler said. “We usually have these chats late at night, and the idea stemmed from a conversation we had in August. The tagline for Bud Light’s newest campaign is ‘Easy to Drink, Easy to Enjoy,’ and then the concept of the genie appeared from that line.”

DuBrueler and his partner approached the project like a film they would like to see. To be worthy of the big game, they tried to go as big as possible, including bringing in celebrities such as former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and rapper-singer Post Malone.

“The Super Bowl is all about going big and making a splash,” DuBrueler said. “This is the only time of year where advertising is being looked forward to, so why not make something memorable and out of the norm?”

Super Bowl ads by Brandcenter alums

Here is the full roster of 20 ad campaigns that 27 VCU Brandcenter alums helped create for this year’s Super Bowl

 Apple Music

Chris Trumbull, copywriting, 2010

Apple Marcom internal


Michelle Darnell, creative brand management, 2016

Ogilvy NY

Best Buy

Tim Shumar, copywriting, 2017

Best Buy internal creative group


Tim Gordon, copywriting, 2008

Zulu Alpha Kilo (Canada)

Tina Fey hires body doubles to help her experience the amazing accommodations on Booking.com.

Bud Light

Adam DuBrueler, art direction, 2021

Anomaly, NYC

Filthy rich? Done. An epic night out with your favorite celebs? The Bud Light Genie’s here to make it happen.

Coors Light

Chris Colliton, experience design, 2012

Kevin Weir, art direction, 2012

Droga5, NYC

Waking from retirement in the Rocky Mountains, the Coors Light Chill Train is embarking on an epic journey across the country. Traveling at a frosty 900 MPH, the ice-cold locomotive will stop at nothing to bring chill wherever it’s needed. And this time, it’s bringing refreshment to a watch party that has unfortunately turned tense.


Emily Hovis, copywriting, 2016

Anne Marie Wonder, art direction, 2016

72&Sunny NYC

Whether it’s pickleball or portfolios, the #ETRADEPicklebabies know how to #GetintheGame.


Sarah Garman, creative brand management, 2013

Orchard, NYC

Don't panic. Gift easy with Etsy's new Gift Mode.

 Google Pixel

Josh Rosen, copywriting, 2002

Google Creative Lab

Guided Frame on Pixel 8 uses Google AI to make it easier for people with blindness or low vision to capture photos and share daily life. Blind director Adam Morse brings the feature to life in his SB commercial debut.


Lily Fu Ramos, art direction, 2016

Pereira O’Dell, NYC

MGM Grand

Joe Nio, strategy, 2000

Highdive, Chicago

BetMGM is for everyone that loves sports betting. Vince Vaughn, Wayne Gretzky… but not Tom Brady.

NFL Sunday Ticket on YouTube TV

Heather Ryder, copywriting, 2010

You Tube Creative Studio (freelancer)

Football season is ending. But don’t worry, it’ll be back. As certain as the sun, it always comes back. Be ready for next season with NFL Sunday Ticket and YouTube TV, where you can watch every game, every Sunday.


Hannah Hugeback, strategy, 2021

Mischief, NYC

The Couch family got their final offer from Opendoor before the big game ended! And they did it with no staging, no showings, no hassles.


Johnny Roelofs, strategy, 2013

The Martin Agency, RVA

Brianne Johnson, strategy, 2020 (social campaign)

Dentsu Creative, NYC

Twist on it with OREO.

Pizza Hut (pre-game spot)

Tiff McKee, art direction, 2006

GSD&M, Austin

Pizza Hut Super Bowl Commercial 2024 Pizza Wha-Hut Ad Review. Pizza Hut has aired its Super Bowl Commercial for Pizza Hut Hot Honey Pizza & Wings. Pizza Hut was one of the advertiser of Super Bowl 2024. Say wHuuuut.

Pluto TV

Jay Kamath, art direction, 2007

Haymaker, LA

You are now entering Pluto TV Country. Where the couch potatoes are fed with the finest content from Pluto TV.


Karah Smith, strategy, 2022

Will Dean, art direction, 2004

Lyle Yetman, copywriting, 2004

Walt Barron, strategy, 2002

Joshua Browne, copywriting, 2019 (social campaign)

McKinnney, Durham

The year is 1972. Popeyes has just opened, and they have some groovy, far-out, and tasty fried chicken. Unfortunately, it will be over fifty years until they will offer chicken wings. Faced with this mouth-watering quandary, what would you do? How could you ensure that you would be around to taste these modern marvels? Well for one man, the answer was simple. He cryogenically froze himself.

Reese’s peanut butter cups

Jason Goldberg, art direction, 2017

Erich & Kallman, San Francisco

#REESES #GameDay #commercial announces that there will be a big #change to the iconic #REESES Peanut Butter Cups! The #REESESCaramelBigCup which includes #caramel is #outnow.


John March, strategy, 2022

Lewis Media Partners, RVA


Jodi Shelley, strategy, 2000


Zach Braff and Donald Faison welcoming Jason Momoa to the neighborhood the best way they know how - with a song and dance 🕺