The NFL couldn’t have scripted it any better if they’d tried — not that we’re suggesting they did. But after several tumultuous years marked by press cycles centered around racism, police brutality, protests, sexual assault, domestic violence, shaky ratings, culture war shenanigans, and the little fact that the very game itself is destroying the brains of all those who play it, the National Football League enjoyed a 2023-2024 season where the main storyline seemed to be its mere proximity to Taylor Swift, vis-a-vis her relationship with Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce.
Even before the couple went public last fall, Swift was in the midst of an all-consuming media glut not seen since the days of 1989, Kim and Kanye, and Reputation. Add the superstar tight end from the reigning Super Bowl champs to a cultural stew that already included Midnights, “Anti-Hero,” the Eras Tour, the end of a six-year relationship, and a summer of amateur pap shots at Casa Cipriani with an alt-rocker infamous for not knowing when to shut up, and you get the kind of cosmic gumbo that could bring tears of joy to the most hardened army of haggard public relations experts and marketing professionals.
Swift was present at most of the Chiefs’ games this season and their playoff run, a regularly recurring gift for the NFL and its camera crews that may have led to some consternation and complaints — but, hey, all press is good press (though actually, as the NFL knows full well, that’s not always true). That it all culminated with the Chiefs’ second straight Super Bowl victory, a chugged beer on a Jumbotron, and an on-field kiss between Kelce and Swift — truly, you cannot make this stuff up.
So, to mark the end of Season One of TS X TK X NFL, we’ve done our best to collect and crunch the numbers in an effort to capture this collision of some of America’s mightiest cultural institutions. This isn’t necessarily an attempt to quantify the “Taylor Swift effect” on the NFL because hard answers are honestly kind of boring. The real “answer,” such as it is, lies within the question itself, in the ineffable nature of celebrity (or something like that). So toss on MGMT’s “Electric Feel,” and let’s take a look back at the last five months of insanity, in which we, as a culture, devoured anything and everything Swift-Kelce-NFL related like a “squirle” smashing a “peice of bread.”
NFL TV ratings increase thanks to Taylor Swift: Actually, it turns out this one’s kind of hard to measure. After Swift first started showing up at games in late September, there were reports of overall rating boosts, especially among women in the 12-17 and 18-49 demographics. NBC said it raked in 27 million viewers — including an additional 2 million female viewers — when the Chiefs played the New York Jets on Oct. 1, 2023, with Swift in attendance, making it the second most popular Sunday NFL broadcast since the previous Super Bowl.
Recently, though, the data nerds (not pejorative) at The New York Times did their due diligence to determine if Swift had made NFL games, or even just Chiefs games, more popular. The results were mixed, with the writers ultimately ruling: “Certainly some Swift fans have tuned in, but it’s not obvious they’ve made a dent in the already huge popularity of the NFL.”
Travis Kelce jersey sales: After Swift attended her first Chiefs game on Sept. 24, the NFL’s official e-commerce partner, Fanatics, revealed that Kelce jerseys saw a 400% spike in sales. A few months later, Kelce and his brother, now-retired Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, noted on their podcast that they’d become number one and number two highest-selling NFL jerseys in the U.K. More up-to-date jersey data isn’t readily available, though a PR firm that has sent me a very large number of emails about search data (more on that later) claims Google searches for “Travis Kelce jersey” shot up 2,252% after last night’s Super Bowl win.
Ticket sales: Again, somewhat vague, though marketplaces like StubHub reported that sales for Chiefs home games shot up 235% after Swift attended her first game.
Number of Chiefs games attended by Taylor Swift: 13 (once again — you truly cannot make this stuff up). Swift attended nine regular season games and four playoff games, including the Super Bowl.
Kansas City Chiefs record at games attended by Taylor Swift: 10 wins, three losses.
Famous friends brought to games: 15 — Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Hugh Jackman, Sophie Turner, Sabrina Carpenter, Alana Haim, Ice Spice, RiotUSA, Ashley Avignone, Miles Teller, Keleigh Sperry, Antoni Porowski, Cara Delevingne, Shawn Levy, and Lana Del Rey.
Total Taylor Swift screen time during Super Bowl LVIII: 55 seconds (per USA Today).
Estimated average screen time Taylor Swift received at NFL games she attended: About 25 seconds (per The New York Times).
Non-football thing that received the second most screen time, after Taylor Swift (44 seconds), during the Chiefs’ AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens: People making, serving, and eating crab cakes (27 seconds, via dedicated man with a stopwatch, Jason Pauley)
Awards show monologue jokes made about NFL camera crews always cutting to Taylor Swift at Chiefs games: Two, one bad (Jo Koy at the Golden Globes), one kinda good (Trevor Noah at the Grammys; even Swift was laughing).
Song lyric changes: One. While performing in Argentina — with Kelce in attendance thanks to a well-timed bye-week — Swift changed the lyrics to “Karma,” singing, “Karma is the guy on the Chiefs, coming straight home to me.”
Peak Billboard vinyl albums chart position for A Philly Special Christmas, a charity album containing Travis and Jason Kelce’s Philadelphia-specific spin on the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York”: Number Two (for the deluxe edition) and Number Three (for the 2023 edition). At Number One, you guessed it, 1989 (Taylor’s Version).
Dollar amount offered by Machine Gun Kelly to get Kelce to move from the Chiefs to the Cleveland Browns: $500,000 (seems kinda low, tbh).
Times NFL commentator Tony Romo accidentally referred to Swift as Kelce’s “wife”: One.
Emails I’ve received regarding “skyrocketing” search data pertaining to Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce, and/or the NFL: My poor inbox.
Estimated CO2 emissions from a private jet belonging to Taylor Swift as she traveled between Chiefs games, Eras Tour dates, and other engagements: 138 tons of CO2 over a three-month period — allegedly!!!
Posts on RollingStone.com tagged Travis Kelce published before Sept. 24, 2023: Three.
Posts on RollingStone.com tagged Travis Kelce published after Sept. 24, 2023: 60 (including this one).