John Madden’s first Miller Lite ad sparked success as commercial pitchman

He was the Super Bowl-winning NFL coach who "retired" at age 42 -- then went on to a broadcasting career where he taught America that one knee equals two feet.

But John Madden, who died Tuesday at age 85, was also a hugely successful commercial pitchman as well.

Though he was long associated with the Oakland Raiders and the NFL – as well as the TV networks for which he later worked – Madden also became closely associated with brands such as Miller Lite, Ace Hardware and tough-actin’ Tinactin, among others.

Who could forget the image that started it all: big, burly Madden literally bursting through the TV screen during one of Miller Lite’s "Tastes Great/Less Filling" debates.

Before Madden’s first Miller Lite ad in 1981, he couldn’t believe he could become any more famous than he already was, having led the Raiders to a Super Bowl win in January 1977.

"How can more people know me?" an incredulous Madden recalled asking ad people before the first commercial ran, he recalled in a 2016 interview with BroBible.

"Just believe me, they will," came the reply, Madden said.

"And they did!" Madden continued. "I went from John Madden, the coach, to John Madden, the Miller Lite guy who breaks through the wall." 

The spot led to many more for Miller Lite – and other brands came calling.

Madden’s greatest commercial success may have come in having his name on EA Sports’ "Madden NFL" video games (originally called "John Madden Football"), which have sold hundreds of millions of copies. 

The games remain hugely popular more than two decades later. After just its first month of release, the latest title in the series, "Madden NFL 22," shot up to become the No. 4 top-selling game of 2021, as ranked by NPD Group, MediaPlay News reported in September.

Madden’s various income streams added up to a fortune that Celebrity Net Worth estimated to be about $200 million.

Not bad for a guy who quit coaching at age 42.