The Swift-Kelce Story: an intriguing blend of music, sports, and romance
Taylor Swift, once the girl next door with golden curly locks and an acoustic guitar, has transformed into a global pop icon, shedding her southern twang (despite growing up in Pennsylvania) in the process. With each album release, she unleashes a new “era”: a new sound, theme, and appearance – changing her hair and outfits to match. Although I am a millennial and should be all aboard the “Swiftie” train, I never really understood her appeal. However, as a communications professional, I cannot help but admire her. She has gotten half of the world twirled around her little finger, painted with red nail polish.
Taylor Swift began her Eras Tour on March 17, 2023, which has since grossed over $1.3 billion in ticket sales, making it the highest-grossing tour of all time by a female artist. Unsurprisingly, this makes her one of the most popular artists in the world today.
On October 1, 2023, Taylor Swift traded her acoustic guitar for a football jersey and joined her friends, Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Hugh Jackman, and Sophie Turner, in cheering on the Kansas City Chiefs against the New York Jets. Reportedly, she and her friends were there to support her new beau, Travis Kelce, the Chiefs’ tight end.
Is it really newsworthy that America’s sweetheart is watching America’s favorite sport?
Absolutely. Especially when her appearance boosts viewership by 27 million viewers on NBC and Peacock, making it the most-watched Sunday program since the Super Bowl, with female viewership spiking by more than 35% and teenage girl viewership increasing by 53%.
Kelce No. 87
The day after Taylor Swift attended the Chiefs game, Travis Kelce became the third most-searched public figure in the United States, trailing only Beyoncé and Swift herself. Jersey sales with Kelce’s name and number also skyrocketed by 400%. Additionally, Kelce gained more Instagram followers after Swift’s televised appearances than he did after all three Super Bowls he played in combined.
The NFL’s Swift Strategy
Speculation about Swift and Kelce’s rumored romance began on September 24, 2023, when Swift was first seen with Kelce’s mother at the Chiefs vs. Bears game. Recognizing the opportunity to capitalize on the buzz generated by Swift’s presence, the NFL quickly moved into action. In the days leading up to the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets game, the NFL strategically promoted the event using Swift’s song “Welcome to New York.” This move, which was approved by Swift’s team, was aimed to maximize the impact of her debut in the NFL arena. Not to mention, during the game itself, it seemed like the cameras were more interested in Swift than the game, cutting to the pop star at least 17 times.
Ian Trombetta, the Senior VP of Social and Influencer Marketing for the NFL, reflected on this mutually beneficial coupling, stating, “But what’s been interesting is the fascination around, ‘Is there a relationship there?’ and ‘How does that all work out beyond just Taylor showing up at a game?’ That storyline has really fed this global surge of attention.” This strategic narrative has undoubtedly contributed to the heightened interest surrounding Swift and the NFL.
Over the weeks, the NFL has centered its social media strategy around Taylor Swift more than the games. This has led to some criticism from veteran football fans, but the league is clearly focused on generating buzz and attention. The NFL has changed its bios on TikTok, Instagram, and X to incorporate Swift. It has also posted numerous photos and videos of her on social media. For example, the NFL’s header picture on Twitter features three photos of Swift at the Chiefs-Jets game. The league’s bio also includes the line “We had the best day with you today,” a reference to a lyric from her song “The Best Day.”
Is it Just a Game?
Donna Kelce, the mother of the speculated new romantic interest, made a recent appearance on the “Got It from My Momma” podcast. This podcast, hosted by Jennifer Vickery Smith, focuses on interviewing mothers of entertainers and entertainer moms.
“All I can tell you is that the NFL is laughing all the way to the bank,” Kelce’s mother, Donna, said, “They’ve told me personally that the Kelce family has done more good PR for football than they could’ve paid a million dollars to a PR firm.”
This is a two-way street, Swift is also gaining traction, as observed by ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith, “She’s a marketing genius. Being in NFL games, that ain’t helping you? Don’t you got a movie coming out? Didn’t you make $6 billion at a concert? You know what you doing.”
It is true, Taylor Swift recently released her movie – Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour. The movie was released on October 13, 2023, and while she certainly didn’t need extra publicity, her relationship with Travis Kelce has undoubtedly generated additional interest in the film – drawing in boyfriends of screaming fans who might have otherwise skipped it. The film has a record-breaking opening weekend, grossing $95 million to $97 million domestically and $130 million globally. It is the best release of all time for a concert film and one of the biggest opening weekends of the year.
The Swift-Kelce effect highlights the impact of celebrity and the profound influence of public figures on shaping pop culture. Celebrities possess a distinct ability to not only spark interest and excitement but also to broaden reach, amplifying brand awareness. This occurrence serves as a poignant reminder of the pivotal role that PR and marketing play in our world.
In the case of both Swift and the NFL, their success can be attributed to a meticulous PR campaign that sparked widespread buzz and garnered significant attention. This serves as a blueprint for other busy businesses and organizations aiming to navigate the modern landscape successfully. At its core, this campaign revolves around the power of storytelling—a narrative technique that resonates deeply with people. The romantic narrative that unfolded became the catalyst for this PR frenzy, demonstrating the effectiveness of a compelling story in captivating audiences.