Anti-hero or saviour?
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Could the ‘Swifties’ be saving the National Football League?
Welcome to my new article series, Lattes & Insights! This is a series where I interview industry experts, influencers, and leaders to discuss a variety of topics, trends, challenges, and success stories in the exciting world of public relations, communications, and marketing.
In my first article, I chatted with Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelcie & global popstar Taylor Swi– ahh, gotcha! Taylor was too busy on her eras tour, and Travis was practicing for the Super Bowl.
Going forward with this series, each article will feature an interview with someone from the industry, where we’re diving into the latest and more interesting trends PR has to offer.
For this article, I talk about the potential impact of Taylor Swift on Super Bowl advertising, social media strategies and overall brand resonance. So, grab your favourite mug, pour some fresh brew, and dive in!
The National Football League (NFL) has been on a decline in popularity over the past few seasons. This has been made clear by the low television ratings, attendance at games and overall interest from the public. With the league’s poor reputation for handling domestic violent incidents as well as its increasing focus on profits over the competition (fans calling the league “fixed,” “rigged,” and “scripted”), the NFL has a problem.
There is one weekend on the NFL calendar that generates so much fanfare and coverage.
Every February, football fans gear up for the grand finale of the National Football League (NFL) season: The Super Bowl. It is a day filled with placing bets (which I never encourage), indulging in cheesy nachos, sizzling wings, and an electrifying halftime show that captivates audiences and instantly goes viral on social media. The showdown will feature the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Yet, amidst the Super Bowl and what is sure to be a great game, there is another narrative-grabbing headline. Enter everyone’s favourite NFL anti-hero, Taylor Swift, the global pop sensation. Throughout the regular season and then playoffs, Swift has been spotted passionately supporting the Kansas City Chiefs, ditching her hometown loyalties to the Philadelphia Eagles for the sake of cheering on her boyfriend, Travis Kelcie. Fans are complaining that she is ruining the NFL with her “constant” airtime, but could she be the NFL’s unplanned saviour?
Swift’s impact on advertising has been great for the sport. When Swift made her first appearance at a Chiefs September game versus the Chicago Bears, it led to 27 million viewers (Forbes, 2023). A lot of the viewer increase was from young women. Her relationship with Kelce also led to a 400 per cent spike in his jersey sales (ESPN, 2023).
Taylor’s involvement has also been a financial boom for the NFL. Her appearance alone has contributed $122 million to the NFL brand value (Jones, 2023), which has elevated the NFL’s standing as an entertainment entity. Think about it like this: if the NFL decided to release a special Taylor Swift jersey, it could potentially outsell every other jersey in sports entertainment. This raises an interesting idea of the NFL introducing merchandise like friendship bracelets, adding an interactive and engaging layer to the fan experience if they so wanted. This would be an excellent marketing chip for the NFL if they really wanted to engage with younger audiences – primarily teenage girls and young women adults.
With Taylor’s appearance at the Super Bowl, advertisers and brands are formulating social media strategies to tap into her massive fanbase. The price tag for a 30-second commercial to be aired during the Super Bowl is $7 million (Statista, 2023), prompting brands to explore alternative ways to engage audiences on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter), Previous Super Bowl events have witnessed social media phenomena like Oreo’s tweet during the New Orleans blackout in 2013, Katy perry’s “Left Shark” moment in 2016, and Rihanna’s pregnancy revelation during a performance on a 60-foot beam last year.
Swift’s influence goes beyond the gridiron. Notably, there has been a remarkable 10 per cent surge in viewership during the playoffs (northjersey.com, 2024), with NBC attributing a two-million viewer boost to her influence. It is not just about boosting NFL viewership; Swift is successfully drawing in female viewers, a demographic that the NFL has traditionally found challenging to connect with.
Consequently, Super Bowl advertisers are gearing up to appeal more to women this year. The Taylor Swift phenomenon is a testament to the adaptability of the market and the evolving landscape of targeted media strategies. It highlights the continuous opportunities available for brands and organizations willing to seize them.
Las Vegas is the host city of this year’s Super Bowl. The vibrant and ever-evolving landscape of Vegas offers a unique backdrop for advertisers looking to capitalize on Swift’s newfound association with football. The city’s dazzling lights, iconic landmarks, and the introduction of innovative marketing avenues, such as the new Sphere, create an environment where brands can leverage Swift’s influence to engage audiences in unprecedented ways.
Just a few months ago, the idea of Taylor Swift and football in the same sentence seemed improbable. Yet, here she is, paving the way for marketers to turn this expected alliance into a valuable marketing opportunity amid the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas cityscape.
Instead of seeing Swift as a problem, think about how she has become this unexpected twist in the NFL story. Whether you love her or not, she might just be the game-changer nobody saw coming. She may be dancing in a luxury press box, taking selfies with Momma Kelcie, living her best life, and rescuing the sport from its own troubles, but she is growing the sport to unprecedented levels. As marketers prepare for Taylor’s arrival at the big game – swarmed with cameras and her paparazzi – it is a chance to rethink strategies, pull in new crowds, and create marketing moments that stretch way beyond the game itself.
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