In September, Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins wrote: “An NFL team needs multiple stars and giant scoreboards to draw 70,000. She just needs her damn self. And she could fit three NFL team salary caps in her personal net worth.”

The “she” Jenkins was referring to is, of course, Taylor Swift. The newly minted billionaire is on a career-spanning world tour, she just released her fourth rerecorded album, and — most relevant to the NFL references in Jenkins’ column — she has been very publicly dating Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce since sometime this summer.

Swift-Kelce-New NFL Fans

A fan holds a sign that says “Kelce is Swift to the End Zone” during a Kansas City Chiefs game in September. AP file photo

While Swift’s career has at times been (unfairly) defined by the company she’s kept — something she addressed in the prologue for “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” — the pop star has seemingly welcomed the spotlight on her latest relationship. The clearest sign of that came when she changed the lyrics of “Karma” to call out “the guy on the Chiefs coming straight home to me” during a tour stop in Argentina when Kelce was in attendance.

Since rumors of the romance first began swirling, we’ve been treated to what culture writer Anne Helen Petersen called “a truly masterful drip of relationship content” that has drawn in folks who previously may not have been heavily invested in Swift, Kelce or even the NFL. The content has trickled into Swift’s shows, NFL games (even when the Chiefs aren’t playing) and Kelce’s own podcast with his brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce.

Even more, the relationship has bridged the gap between two of the largest groups of fans — and consumers.

“One of the [NFL’s] players is very publicly in a relationship with this extremely famous person and that extremely famous person is showing up at the events,” Rachel Greenspan, social supervisor at digital marketing agency VMLY&R, told The Inquirer. “And Travis is showing up at Taylor’s events and it’s kind of like a really nice, symbiotic, mutual, engagement-driving conversation on the parts of Taylor, for Travis Kelce’s personal brand for sure, and for the NFL as a league.”


Making money (and headlines)

It’s hard to estimate the exact economic impact of Swift’s Eras Tour, but the Washington Post reported that fans spent $93 million per show, citing a survey by QuestionPro. Some of those fans spent thousands on resale tickets after overwhelming demand during the Ticketmaster presale crashed the ticketing platform. The singer could personally make $4.1 billion from the North American leg, according to the Washington Post report. That’s about how much each NFL team is worth individually, with each franchise taking a $347.3 million share of the league’s revenue during the 2021 season, The Athletic reported in 2022.

Some fans have joked that Taylor Swift put Travis Kelce on the map. While that’s not entirely true, in the days after Swift made her first appearance at a Chiefs’ game, sales of Kelce’s jersey were up by 400%, according to Fanatics.

Over the last 90 days, search queries for “Taylor Swift,” “Travis Kelce,” “Taylor Swift Travis Kelce,” and “Kansas City Chiefs” follow almost identical spike patterns on Google Trends since Swift made her first appearance at a Chiefs game on Sept. 24. Search interest for “1989 taylor’s version,” which was released on Oct. 27 and whose vault tracks were revealed through a campaign linked to Google, doesn’t even register when compared against these search terms.

All that’s to say is that both Swift and Kelce are benefiting immensely from the attention their pairing has drawn and will continue to draw.

Perhaps controversial to those who want to believe that this love story is just that, the very public nature of the couple’s relationship timeline has all been carefully orchestrated. As Kyle Marisa Roth, a cultural commentator who has built a following dissecting celebrity blind items, explained, celebrities and their publicists have the ability to sway public perception of them using positive press. Sometimes that may include a whirlwind romance.


“Just because a relationship is PR doesn’t mean it didn’t begin completely real. It just means any relationship that’s publicized for a mutually beneficial purpose in the interest of both parties involved in the relationship,” Roth told The Inquirer. “It’s just more thinking of like a relationship that becomes the public interest where every single development, every single move is reported on publicly.”

Embracing a ‘cross-cultural connection’

Swift’s reach is undeniable. But even with millions of fans around the world, she still runs the risk of overexposure, which she has been all too aware of with past relationships.

Her quiet, six-year relationship with actor Joe Alwyn may have been attributed to “Alwyn’s preferences, or the pandemic, or you could see it as a general retrenchment after overexposure. Swift — and/or Swift’s publicity team — understood that there comes a certain point when the celebrity-consuming public grows weary of news of even its most beloved figures,” Petersen wrote in her Culture Study newsletter.

But “the thing about Taylor Swift is that when she wants to be seen, Taylor Swift is seen,” said Roth.

Still some — mainly NFL fans — do say they’re sick of seeing Swift on their screens because of her recent coupling with Kelce. The NFL has swatted away the criticism.


“We frequently change our bios and profile imagery based on what’s happening in and around our games, as well as culturally,” the NFL told People. “The Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce news has been a pop cultural moment we’ve leaned into in real time, as it’s an intersection of sport and entertainment, and we’ve seen an incredible amount of positivity around the sport.”

Taylor Swift, even despite her haters, has significant cultural staying power, Greenspan told The Inquirer.

“There isn’t that much negative power in that fatigue because, clearly, week over week, month over month, year over year, she continues to drive this conversation at a pretty high volume and pretty impressive metrics.”

One of the latest examples of recentering the cultural conversation came when Kelce’s old tweets began surfacing last week. Not only did fans embrace his past wholesome and sweet-natured posts, other brands — including Taco Bell, Chipotle, Olive Garden, and State Farm — found opportunity in it, too.

These conversation-driving moments will not always present themselves organically to brands. But Swift and Kelce’s relationship might set precedent for the way brands think about bridging cultural lines in the future.

“If I were doing marketing for the NFL, I’d be thanking my lucky stars that this whole situation happened, and then immediately planning what can we learn from this,” Greenspan said. “What the big lesson of this has been is that people are hungry for that cross-cultural connection.”

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