NFL: The ‘Taylor Swift effect’ brings spending boost to football

October 1, 2023 - 11:48 AM
Taylor Swift reacts while watching the Kansas City Chiefs vs Chicago Bears game during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo)

NEW YORK The “Swift Effect” will be in full force when the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs travel to New York on Sunday, as a connection between pop music phenomenon Taylor Swift and NFL tight end Travis Kelce has sent fans into a frenzy.

The rumored relationship marks a collision between two of the most powerful forces in American pop culture, the juggernaut Swift in the middle of her record-breaking “Eras Tour”, and the National Football League.

The pairing seemed all but confirmed when Swift showed up in Travis Kelce’s suite at Arrowhead stadium on Sunday, where she cheered wildly as the tight end caught a three-yard touchdown pass in a 41-10 drubbing of the Chicago Bears.

Her appearance set social media ablaze as fans dissected Swift’s every behavior, from her banter with Kelce’s mom, Donna, to the sauces she paired with a mid-game chicken finger snack. The television broadcast of the game even replayed Swift’s celebrations in slow motion.

Fans are now hoping to say “Welcome to New York” – or rather, East Rutherford, New Jersey – when the Chiefs take on the host Jets, as rumors swirl that Swift may make a repeat appearance.

“She has owned the live event industry over the past year and continues to as her tour continues,” Adam Budelli, spokesperson for ticket resale platform StubHub, told Reuters.

“Matched with the NFL, which we all know is driving the biggest TV ratings and interest across the entire sports landscape… I don’t want to call it a marriage, but clearly a match made in heaven for the short term, from a media standpoint as well as even (a) ticketing story.”

Since Swift’s appearance in Kansas City, Jets ticket sales for their game against the Chiefs have soared, with sales in a single day more than doubling the previous record for this season, aside from the team’s opening game, marking the Jets debut of star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, according to StubHub.

Swift’s appearance also preceded a nearly three-fold increase in sales in a 24-hour window for Chiefs home games on StubHub.

Digital streaming device-maker Roku said the largest demographic increase for the Chiefs-Bears game was among women ages 18-49, jumping 63% week-over-week, even as the NFL has long enjoyed a roughly 50% female audience.

Swift and her army of fans, known as Swifties, could help move the needle for the NFL as it seeks to further break into the European market, said Tom Scott, CEO of London-based communications consultancy Trippant, which has worked with the Philadelphia Eagles on their international exposure.

The league may get a chance to make its biggest overseas splash yet in November, when the Chiefs play the Miami Dolphins in Frankfurt.

“Taylor Swift being at NFL games is gold dust for the league,” Scott said.

Swift’s “Eras Tour” includes international venues that span five continents. Her most ambitious and sweeping tour to date will keep her busy through most of 2024.

‘What’s real’

High profile athlete-celebrity relationships are nothing new. Jets Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath was famous for his off-the-field exploits with models and actresses that built his reputation as one of the Big Apple’s most eligible bachelors in the ’60s and ’70s.

But Swift, whose fame far eclipses that of Kelce’s, brings a megawatt starpower that is virtually unprecedented – even in the NFL.

Sports merchandise retailer Fanatics, the NFL’s official e-commerce partner, said there was a nearly 400% spike in sales of Travis Kelce jerseys on its websites including on Sunday, placing it in the top five best-selling NFL jerseys.

Kelce, who guest hosted “Saturday Night Live” after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy this year, is no stranger to the spotlight as ratings and supersized attention follow Super Bowl winners.

But Swift’s appearance at Sunday’s game prompted an explosion of interest in the eight-time Pro Bowler, whose social media followers grew by a reported 300,000.

Kelce said on his “New Heights” podcast – which climbed from 158th on the Apple charts at the start of the month to No. 1 one this week – that he has started spotting paparazzi outside his house.

“I brought all this attention to me,” said Kelce. “What’s real is that it is my personal life and I want to respect both of our lives.”

– Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York and Helen Reid in London; Editing by Bill Berkrot)