Released as a single on January 4, 2011, "Sail" is the band's most commercially successful song to date. It debuted at number 89 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 chart in September 2011, spending 20 weeks on the chart before dropping out. The single re-entered the Hot 100 a year later, becoming a massive sleeper hit and reaching a new peak of number 17. It has spent the second longest time inside the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with 79 weeks, only surpassed by Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive".
In July 2010, Austin DJ Toby Ryan premiered the song on KROX-FM and the response from the listeners was positive.
"Sail" debuted at number 89 on the United States BillboardHot 100 singles chart on the week of September 3, 2011. The single spent twenty weeks on the chart before dropping out following the issue date of January 14, 2012. It eventually re-entered in mid-2013; its use in various television shows and advertisements exposed the song to a wider audience. Following its appearance in a History trailer promoting Vikings, weekly downloads "more than tripled". The song has since spent more than a year on the chart and peaked at number 17 on the Hot 100 in its 56th week on the chart, two years after its initial debut. "Sail" was certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in June 2013, and as of January 2015, it has sold over 5.5 million copies in the US.
"Sail" also peaked at number five on the BillboardAlternative Songs chart in 2011. The song was featured in the introduction of the 2012 film Disconnect. Due to its extremely unusual longevity, it has become the only song in the history of the Hot 100 to spend a year on the chart without entering the top 20 first.
The video for "Sail" opens with lead singer Aaron Bruno running to a house. He enters the house relieved to have escaped from the threat outside. He shuts the blinds. Bruno then finds a tape recorder, and starts singing into it. He enters a bathroom and looks into a mirror, still singing. A green strip of light enters the house and moves across it, scanning a spacesuit helmet and a military flight-suit. As the light climbs up the stairs towards him, Bruno hides inside a full bathtub. The beam scans him in the bath. Bruno is then depicted being pulled across the floor by an unknown force; he attempts to cling to a door-frame, but loses his grip. The scene is interspersed with shots of Bruno closing a door and playing the song's piano section. As the song's final chorus section begins, the house shakes. Lights and lamps turn on and off as gusts of wind blow. Bruno is pulled by the mysterious force outside the house, and he is subsequently levitated up into the sky as a set of floodlights flash on him. He drops the tape recorder.
A video recorded by YouTuber Nanalew two years prior to Awolnation's own video had nearly 150 million views, in comparison to the group's own video which has just over 4 million. On January 28th 2015, Nanalew's video was blocked from YouTube due to copyright issues.
"Sail" was used as the soundtrack for a YouTube video of proximity wingsuit flying "Grinding the Crack" by extreme athlete Jeb Corliss, uploaded in August 2011, which went viral receiving in excess of 25 million views. The song was played in a November 2011 episode of The Good Wife.
"Sail" was also featured in the 2012 film Disconnect. A So You Think You Can Dance contestant danced on it in May 2012. The song was then used in a BMW commercial launched during the 2012 Summer Olympics. In 2013, the song was used by TV channel History in a trailer for the show Vikings and in the trailer for The Counselor (2013). It was also featured in an episode of The Vampire Diaries. "Sail" was played during the final scene of "Dog Soldier", the fifth episode (season 1) of A&E's crime drama Longmire.
Christie's Auction House used "Sail" in a video preview for their May 2014 sale. The video shows a professional skateboarder Chris Martin gliding through Christie's Rockefeller building storage and passing by the art of Richard Prince, Andy Warhol and On Kawara, among others.
A video of "Sail" played on a tuned Tesla Coil is on YouTube. The chords are amplified by the placement of the coil in a large hall during a science fair.