The 'greatest show on turf' managed to tap into even bigger audiences this year, and we can't help but wonder if the relationship/cultural phenomenon of a certain popstar and her NFL boyfriend are to thank...
Chris Carr & Jemma Nightingale
Often dubbed the 'greatest show on turf’, the Super Bowl is a spectacle with a long-standing reputation that goes beyond just being a sporting final. While the game itself normally delivers great action, it’s the excessive build-up, tortilla-chip and chicken-wing consumption stats, legendary headline halftime shows, star-studded guest lists, and of course, ludicrously expensive advertising slots that it's really known for. It’s a well-known brand haven due to the guaranteed hundred million plus viewership.
This year, however, presented a unique opportunity to move away from the traditional Ford Truck and Coors Light content as the cultural phenomenon of TayVis (yes, that’s what Taylor and Travis are now going by) set the NFL on an unplanned but highly lucrative collision course with popular culture and new, previously untapped, audiences.
The influence of TayVis mania
Nine-time Pro Bowler, multi-record holding, and legendary Kansas City Chiefs tight end, Travis Kelce, caused quite a stir last summer when he started dating Taylor Swift – arguably the biggest pop star on the planet. Die-hard NFL fans joined forces with Swifties, and the social media age got their version of the Beckhams (circa 1997).
To say the NFL has hit the jackpot would be an understatement. Over the course of the 12 games that Taylor Swift has attended this season, the NFL and Chiefs have pocketed an estimated $331.5m of additional revenue, combined.
Merchandise sales, TV viewership, and social media interactions have all skyrocketed. Most pleasingly from the brands’ perspective, younger audiences and women have contributed to this success on a scale never seen before by the NFL.
As big sports leagues go, the NFL probably had one of the less diverse fanbases – so this shift (or swift) should not be taken lightly.
TayVis and brands
Ahead of the Super Bowl, brands are already starting to jump on TayVis mania.
One of the more high profile has been American Airlines, who introduced Flight 1989 – a tribute to the year taylor Swift was born, as well as her hit album, 1989 (Taylor’s version). The thrilling new route from Kansas City to Las Vegas includes flight number 87, which pays homage to star player, Travis Kelce. These additional flights showcase how influential Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce have been to the Super Bowl this year, with American Airlines even releasing the statement: "To our customers who are huge sports fans, look what you made us do” – referring to Swift’s song ‘Look what you made me do’.
And beauty brands have been coining in on the Swift effect too, with E.L.F Cosmetics, NYX Makeup, and Dove pitching in a huge $7m in Super Bowl ads, due to the increase of female viewers since Swift and Kelce started dating in August 2023. With the Super Bowl’s 30-second ad slots boasting the highest viewership of the year, it’s a smart move from the brands and, combined with an increasing appetite from female viewers, will undoubtedly lead to big profits too.
TayVis and social media
When Travis Kelce caught a touchdown pass and helped the Chiefs narrowly win last year's Super Bowl vs. the Eagles, he had 162k Instagram followers. Heading into the big event this year, he has 2.41m. 63% of his Instagram following is under the age of 25 and 54.1% are female – and likes on his account have grown from 187k at last year's Super Bowl, to a whopping 13.2m today.
Since Travis and Taylor got together in July, the NFL’s official TikTok page has grown 16% and, notably, likes have shot up 53%. There’ll be no prizes for guessing what content has performed so well: The iconic locker room walk, Kelce exclusive content, and Taylor & Donna reaction videos.
But why does the big-hitting content focus on one team, and one relationship, on a league official page? It’s likely because the most lucrative audiences for sports leagues are 18-24 year olds - also known as the future. On the NFL’s TikTok page, 31% of their followers fall in that age bracket, and 14.7% are female. This goes to show: the more diverse a sports audience, the more lucrative the sponsorship and brand deals will be.
The NFL’s gift from Swift
Now, we’re not saying all sports league stars should go speed dating with the world’s biggest pop stars. While it’s worked for Travis and Taylor, the real key to success in sports marketing comes from leveraging the talent and personalities within the game – and embracing popular culture too.
How people get into sport, watch sport, and talk about sport is all completely changing. This swift change (doh) to the NFL’s approach is just the most obvious example of it happening - and fair play to them.
There’s one thing we can’t deny: Although the Chiefs brought home the most points (again!), we know who the real winners are this time: the NFL and its sponsors.
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