As much as the National Football League has tried to satisfy the recent public attention on Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, it certainly isn’t taking any credit for creating the massive storyline that has emerged around the pop superstar and Kansas City Chiefs tight end.
“Not organized by the NFL,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy assured The Associated Press with a laugh during a phone call about what was becoming known as “Tay Tay and Trav,” a topic that few seemed to get enough of at first. , be it football fans or Swifties, be it on TV or TikTok.
The main characters have remained largely silent about their real status since Swift began attending Kelce’s games a week and a half ago, although Kelce admitted after Friday’s practice in Kansas City that “everyone is loving it.”
“A lot of people care about Taylor, and for good reason,” he said, without going into detail about their budding relationship.
But backdrop sports and its television partners aren’t shy about trying to capitalize on the “situation” and attract new fans, especially Gen Z and more women – although marketing experts are skeptical there will be much of a hit in the long term.
“There will be no “pre-Taylor Swift era” or “post-Taylor Swift era” for the NFL. … It’s an instant fascination,” said Rebecca Brooks, founder and CEO of consulting firm Alter Agents.
The “Lavender Haze” singer watched her boyfriend’s team’s Sunday Night Football victory over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 1. She watched the game with a large group of friends, including Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Sabrina Carpenter, Hugh Jackman, Antoni Porowski, Sophie Turner and Brittany Mahomes.
“I believe in love and wish Taylor the best of luck. But…it’s unlikely that people will go to the game to see Taylor and say, “Oh, I had no idea what football was!” My God! Now I like it!” Brooks said. “Or let’s say they get married: Taylor will show up to games and it will become routine.”
Still, the league naturally wants to have fun. A team of people monitoring social media are seeing where this could be part of the phenomenon, as various memes and trends have gone viral since Swift watched the Kansas City game with mom Kelsey in September. 24.
“It was a perfect storm of pop culture and sports colliding in a truly positive way, with two incredibly passionate fan bases coming together and interacting like never before. So this is fantastic for us,” said Ian Trombetta, the NFL’s senior vice president of social, influencer and content marketing.
“I hope that those, especially young women, who are now interested in not only Travis Kelce, but the NFL in general, can stay with us throughout the year and beyond,” Trombetta said.
Not that the NFL thinks there’s much room for improvement: It says 47% of its fans are women and it’s the No. 1 sport among people ages 8 to 24.
The league has worked for several years to attract women, including by promoting flag football or promoting women on team coaching staffs, as negative events have turned people away: incidents of domestic violence involving players; misogyny and sexual harassment during the tenure of former Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder; investigation launched in May by prosecutors in New York and California into allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination at the NFL’s corporate offices.
“It’s each individual situation,” Trombetta said. “We have amazing women in the league… and at the end of the day, we’re proud of where we’re going as a league and the values we try to uphold every day.”
Still, it certainly wouldn’t hurt if Swift, an icon of female empowerment, brought people to the party.
A year ago, she became the first artist to have songs in each of the top 10 positions on the Billboard 100. Overwhelming demand for her current tour, which resumes in two weeks, led to the Ticketmaster fiasco. She has more than 270 million Instagram followers, nearly 10 times the NFL’s 28.4 million; Kelce’s has recently reached 4 million thanks to recent advertising.
This celebrity-athlete pairing is more powerful than many before. Attribute that to Swift’s widespread popularity not only in the U.S. but around the world, as well as Kelce’s status as the NFL’s best player at his position and the second-best player behind quarterback Patrick Mahomes among the defending Super Bowl champions. Add to that the current state of 24/7 coverage via cell phones, and the hype will undoubtedly surpass Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe (go Google them, kids), David Beckham and Posh Spice, the now-divorced Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen, and I Know Darling .
This time, the strikes in Hollywood have left a vacuum of viewing options.
“Nowadays there is always a “story of the week”, and whatever it is, you need to figure out how to fit into it. For a while it was Barbie. In the summer, it was Beyoncé,” said marketing guru Joe Favorito, who counts NFL Media among his past clients.
“If you’re in professional sports, that’s what you want,” he said. “You want to be more than just for the core fans.” You want to be there for everyone, anywhere, who will have to talk about it the next day because they don’t want to feel like they’re missing out.”
One of the challenges with courting Gen Z (ages 11 to 26) is that this group is more overtly concerned with authenticity than previous generations, Brooks said. In this way, the NFL could be “perceived as self-serving,” Brooks said, and “risks being seen as pathetic and disgruntled.”
Indeed, oversaturation is already starting to worry some.
For example, the NFL’s Instagram channel briefly included Swift in her bio and noted that the Chiefs are 2-0 with her. Even Kelce and his brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason, noted how many times NBC cameras showed Swift during Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets – sometimes celebrating a victory, sometimes mingling with famous friends, and sometimes, well, he just stood there.
“Is the NFL overdoing it?” Jason asked Travis on Wednesday’s episode of their podcast. “What is your honest opinion? Put away your feelings for Taylor.”
This drew laughter from Travis, who said spectators can have fun when celebrities are shown at games, but agreed with his brother’s premise, saying, “They went a little overboard, especially in my situation.”
On the other hand, as former CBS Sports president Neil Pilson put it, “You ride the horse as long as it’s available. We show (Dallas Cowboys owner) Jerry Jones more than we probably need to on TV, so why not show Taylor Swift?”
Pilson noted that the NFL’s television contracts, already worth billions, won’t be renegotiated anytime soon, but ratings boosts could be offered to advertisers to push for higher ad prices.
“I have been asked the question more than once: “What happens when and if they break up?” said Trombetta of the NFL. “I have no idea. But I hope they can stay together as long as possible.”
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl