Johnny Cash's 'Ragged Old Flag' Is Music's Big Winner From 2020 Super Bowl Ads

Johnny Cash
Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Johnny Cash photographed in 1965.

Featured in an ad lauding the American flag, the song scored major leaps in both sales and streams.

The results are in for music in ads featured during Super Bowl LIV, and the winner is… a spoken-word Johnny Cash song.

The title track to Cash’s 1974 album Ragged Old Flag earned percentage gains of four digits in both digital downloads and U.S. streams following its placement in an NFL commercial aired during the football game’s broadcast, sporting the largest leap for any song that appeared in an ad while the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers squared off for the 2020 NFL championship.

After selling a negligible amount in the two days prior to the Super Bowl (Jan. 31-Feb. 1), the song garnered 1,000 downloads on the day of the Super Bowl (Feb. 2) and the day after (Feb. 3), an 8,253% jump, according to initial sales reports to Nielsen Music/MRC Data.

Additionally, the song received 1.9 million U.S. on-demand streams from Feb. 2-3, up 6,514% from its 29,000-stream total from Jan. 31-Feb. 1.

It’s not too surprising that “Ragged Old Flag” was the success story of the Super Bowl ads. The commercial, produced in tandem by the NFL and FOX, shows various imagery of the American flag, honoring victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, California wildfires and more.

The other major sales gain belonged to Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” which was included in a Doritos commercial featuring Lil Nas X alongside Sam Elliott in a dance battle over cool ranch Doritos, with a brief cameo from Billy Ray Cyrus. The tune’s 110% sales gain blasted it to 8,000 downloads overall on Feb. 2-3 vs. Jan. 31-Feb. 1, and it also sported a modest 5% streaming boost (7.8 million).

Streaming-wise, a handful of other titles also snagged boosts, including Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” (566,000 streams Feb. 2-3, up 139%; featured in a trailer for Minions: The Rise of Gru), Kanye West’s “Selah” (590,000 streams, up 156%; featured in a trailer for Fast & Furious 9), Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” (199,000 streams, up 81%; Jeep ad featuring Bill Murray) and The Four Tops’ “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” (209,000 streams, up 99%; Heinz commercial).

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