Can a spotlight on Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce help the NFL draw more Gen Z and female fans?

Taylor Swift, second from left, and Brittany Mahomes, second from right, watch play between the...
Taylor Swift, second from left, and Brittany Mahomes, second from proper, watch play between the New York Jets and the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs throughout the second quarter of an NFL soccer recreation, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Picture/Adam Starvation)(Adam Starvation | AP)

(AP) – Keen as the Nationwide Soccer League has been to cater to the latest public fixation with Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, it’s definitely not taking any credit score for creating the outsized storyline that has emerged round the pop celebrity and the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs tight finish.

“Not orchestrated by the NFL,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy assured The Related Press with a chuckle throughout a chat on the cellphone about what’s changing into referred to as ” Tay Tay and Trav,” a subject few appeared to have the ability to get sufficient of initially, whether or not soccer diehards or Swifties, whether or not by way of TV or TikTok.

The protagonists largely have remained mum about their precise standing since Swift started attending Kelce’s video games 1½ weeks in the past, although Kelce did admit after observe Friday in Kansas Metropolis that “everyone is having enjoyable with it.”

“You’ve acquired lots of people that care about Taylor and for good purpose,” he stated, with out moving into the main points of their budding relationship.

However the sport offering the backdrop, and its TV companions, haven’t been shy about making an attempt to capitalize on the “situationship” and achieve new followers, significantly members of Gen Z and extra ladies — though advertising consultants are skeptical there will probably be a lot of a bump in the long term.

“There’s not going to be a ‘Pre-Taylor Swift Period’ and a ‘Submit-Taylor Swift Period’ for the NFL. … It’s a momentary fascination,” stated Rebecca Brooks, founder and CEO of Alter Brokers, a consulting agency.

“I imagine in love and I want Taylor luck. However … it’s impossible individuals would go to a recreation to see Taylor and be like, ‘Oh, I had no concept that is what soccer was about! My gosh! I find it irresistible now!’” Brooks stated. “Or let’s say they get married: Taylor goes to indicate up at video games and it’s going to turn into routine.”


Nonetheless, naturally, the league needs in on the enjoyable. A staff of oldsters monitoring social media see the place it could possibly be a part of the phenomenon as numerous memes and developments took off after Swift watched a recreation in Kansas Metropolis alongside Kelce’s mother on Sept. 24.

“It was an ideal storm of popular culture and sports activities colliding in a very constructive method, with two extremely passionate fan bases merging collectively and interacting in ways in which they hadn’t earlier than. So for us, it’s implausible,” stated Ian Trombetta, the NFL’s senior vp of social, influencer and content material advertising.

“Hopefully these — particularly the younger ladies — which have now gained an curiosity in not solely Travis Kelce, however the NFL extra broadly, can stick with us all year long and years to come back,” Trombetta stated.

Not that the NFL thinks there’s a ton of room for enchancment: It says 47% of its followers are ladies, and it’s the No. 1 sport amongst individuals ages 8 to 24.

The league has labored for a number of years to courtroom ladies, together with by selling flag soccer or touting feminine hires for groups’ teaching staffs, as unfavorable developments turned individuals off: home violence circumstances involving gamers; misogyny and sexual harassment throughout former Washington Commanders proprietor Dan Snyder’s tenure; an investigation launched in Could by New York and California prosecutors into accusations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination at NFL company workplaces.

“These are every particular person conditions,” Trombetta stated. “We’ve acquired wonderful ladies all through the league … and on the finish of the day, we’re happy with the place we’re going as a league and the values that we attempt to uphold every day.”

But it definitely can’t harm to have Swift, an icon of feminine empowerment, bringing individuals to the get together.

A yr in the past, she grew to become the primary artist with songs in every of the highest 10 spots on the Billboard 100. Overwhelming demand to see her present tour — which resumes in two weeks — resulted in a Ticketmaster debacle. Her Instagram following of greater than 270 million is almost 10 occasions the NFL’s 28.4 million; Kelce’s has approached 4 million recently, due to a lift from the latest publicity.

This celebrity-athlete pairing is extra highly effective than many who preceded it. Attribute that to Swift’s broad attraction, not simply within the U.S. however globally, and to Kelce’s standing because the NFL’s greatest participant at his place and the second-best participant, behind quarterback Patrick Mahomes, on the reigning Tremendous Bowl champions. Add the present state of continuous protection by way of cell telephones, and the hype absolutely surpasses Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe (go forward and Google them, youngsters), David Beckham and Posh Spice, the now-divorced Tom Brady and Giselle Bundchen, and so forth.


This time, there additionally was a vacuum of viewing selections due to Hollywood strikes.

“There’s at all times a ‘story of the week’ now, and it doesn’t matter what it’s, it’s important to work out how you can match into it. It was ‘Barbie’ for some time. It was Beyoncé over the summer season,” stated advertising guru Joe Favorito, who counts NFL Media amongst his previous purchasers.

“In case you are in skilled sports activities, that’s what you need,” he stated. “You need to be not only for the core followers. You need to be for everybody, anyplace, who has to speak about this the subsequent day, as a result of they don’t need to really feel like they’re lacking out.”

One subject with courting the Gen Z cohort (11 to 26), Brooks stated, is that it’s a bunch extra overtly involved with authenticity than earlier generations. So the NFL might be “seen as self-serving,” Brooks stated, and “threat wanting type of pathetic and cringy.”

Certainly, the oversaturation already is beginning to hassle some.

The NFL’s Instagram feed, for instance, briefly positioned Swift lyrics in its bio and famous the Chiefs are 2-0 along with her available. Even Kelce and his brother, Philadelphia Eagles middle Jason, famous what number of occasions NBC cameras lower to Swift at Sunday evening’s recreation between Kansas Metropolis and the New York Jets — generally celebrating, generally interacting with well-known buddies and generally, properly, simply standing there.

“Is the NFL overdoing it?” Jason requested Travis on an episode of their podcast launched Wednesday. “What’s your sincere opinion? Take away your emotions for Taylor.”

That drew a chuckle from Travis, who stated it may be enjoyable for viewers when celebrities are proven at video games however agreed along with his brother’s premise, saying: “They’re overdoing it a bit bit, particularly my scenario.”

However, as former CBS Sports activities president Neal Pilson put it: “You trip the horse so long as it’s out there. We present (Dallas Cowboys proprietor) Jerry Jones greater than we most likely must throughout TV broadcasts, so why not present Taylor Swift?”

Pilson famous that NFL TV contracts already value billions aren’t going to be renegotiated any time quickly, however an uptick in rankings could possibly be introduced to advertisers to hunt larger costs for commercials.

“I’ve been requested the query greater than as soon as: `What occurs when and in the event that they break up?’” the NFL’s Trombetta stated. “I do not know. However I hope they’ll keep collectively so long as attainable.”


AP Sports activities Author Dave Skretta in Kansas Metropolis, Missouri, contributed.



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