There’s one story that’s dominated the NFL this season, and it has little to do with football. The Super Bowl return of MVP Patrick Mahomes for the fourth time in five seasons pales compared to Taylor Swift’s five-month romance with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce — and the multitude of fans, ratings gains and revenue that have flowed from it.
Swift is bringing new viewers and big dollars to a television institution, the NFL, whose valuation has been growing and didn’t need a boost in advertising or viewership. The Swift bump nevertheless scored a 20% surge in sponsorships and a upward spike of young women tuning in to NFL games — an over 50% rise among 12-17-year-old girls at the start of this season.
“The fact that [Taylor’s] moving the needle the way she is… is pretty amazing,” Matt Schulz, the chief credit analyst at LendingTree, told TheWrap. “It’s further proof of her financial impact on practically everything she touches.”
In 2024, the Swift effect also extended to the Golden Globes, where her appearance helped it trend upward from last year by 50%, bucking the downward trend of other awards shows. And to politics: President Biden’s team has reportedly discussed strategies to gain Swift’s political endorsement, including Biden possibly attending a stop on Swift’s Eras Tour.
To figure out exactly what impact Swift had on the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs, TheWrap spoke with advertising and sponsorship experts and examined the ratings for Chiefs games throughout the 2023-2024 season.
If 2023 taught us anything it’s that Swift’s “Reputation” is not something to shake off. The singer’s Eras Tour has made history as the highest-grossing tour of all time, becoming the first to surpass the $1 billion mark. And her theatrical concert documentary — “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” — earned $261.6 million worldwide, surpassing “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” and disrupted the entire studio system in the process.
Swifties received confirmation of the budding relationship with Kelce when Swift was seen in the stands at the Sept. 24 game against the Chicago Bears — scoring an instant ratings sensation. The Week 3 game drew 24.3 million viewers on Fox, up 65.5% from the 14.68 million viewers brought in by last year’s Week 3 Chiefs’ matchup against the Indianapolis Colts on CBS.
In the following week’s game against the New York Jets, Swift’s presence boosted NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” to an average of 27 million viewers across all platforms, marking the most-watched Sunday since February’s Super Bowl LVII.
Viewing among girls ages 12-17 grew 53% over the first three broadcasts of this season’s “Sunday Night Football,” with viewership among women 18-24 up 24% and viewership among women over 35 seeing a 34% uptick.
Swift’s attendance at the Week 6 game against the Denver Broncos helped the Chiefs break records on Prime Video with a 57% increase in viewers when compared to last year’s comparable “Thursday Night Football” game between the Washington Commanders and the Chicago Bears. The Week 6 game also scored 4.92 million female viewers, marking a 15% uptick compared to the average female viewership brought in by TNF’s first four games.
As the Chiefs ramped up wins throughout the season, the playoffs against the Buffalo Bills scored a whopping 50.39 million viewers — the biggest audience for an NFL divisional playoff game ever. Viewership continued to climb for the conference championship against the Baltimore Ravens with an audience of 55.47 million viewers on CBS — again marking a new record as the most-watched AFC Championship Game ever.
After last year’s Super Bowl broke records as the most-watched championship game in history with 115.1 million viewers, this year’s matchup against the Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 11 might best even that high mark.
Interest in the NFL rises among Gen Z, especially young women
Unsurprisingly, Swift’s newfound interest in the Chiefs has especially impacted one subset of NFL viewers: young women.
Since Swift started attending NFL games in Week 3, the league saw the highest regular-season viewership among women since it started tracking the statistic in 2000, according to Front Office Sports. The study claims that viewership among women has risen 9% year-over-year while viewership among men increased 6%. The NFL also saw the best regular season among 18-34-year-olds since 2019.
“It’s already wild that Patrick Mahomes could end up taking a backseat to anybody with starpower around the Chiefs, but it certainly has happened,” Schulz said.
A survey conducted by Lending Tree of 2,000 Americans found that 24% of Gen Zers and 20% of millennials said that they were interested in watching the Super Bowl due to Swift. Overall, 75% of those surveyed said they were planning to watch the big game. Of those surveyed that said they were rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs, 18% said they were rooting for the team because of Swift compared to the nearly 31% of Gen Z respondents who agreed with that sentiment.
The study wasn’t universally positive for Swift. Of the 2,000 people polled, 15% said they hate what Swift has done to the NFL, and 8% said they were less interested in sports because of her recent interest.
A survey conducted by Morning Consult Brand Intelligence found similar results. Between July and December of 2023, Gen Z and millennial women’s opinions of the NFL rose 11%, from 53% saying they had a favorable opinion of the professional football league to 64% agreeing with the sentiment.
And a survey conducted by the digital insights and research firm Cint Snap found that roughly half of Americans believe Swift’s attendance impacted the Chiefs’ 2023 season. Of the 288 people surveyed, 51% agreed that the pop star had an impact. When asked if they thought Swift’s attendance impacted the NFL as a whole, that number jumped to 57% of people agreeing out of a sample size of 300.
On a more personal level, 27% of those surveyed said that Swift attending the Chiefs’ games impacted their NFL viewing habits this season with 15% agreeing her attendance “somewhat” impacted their viewing habits. When Cint Snap asked 305 people if they would be watching Super Bowl LVIII to see Swift support the Chiefs, 25% said they were “very likely” to do so and 17% said they were “likely.”
Increased ad and sponsorship spends
It’s not just viewership for the Chiefs that’s increased since Swift started watching Kelce play. Her presence has also lifted team sponsorship deals and ad spend year over year.
Sponsorship revenue grew 20% this season for the Kansas City Chiefs compared to last season, according to the sponsorship data firm SponsorUnited. The Chiefs had 64 sponsors during the 2022 season, 31st in the league, jumped to 81 sponsors during the 2023 season, putting them in 24th place across the league. Sponsorship revenue for the Midwestern team this past season was the third highest in the NFL.
“The Chiefs have been riding high for the last year, and Taylor Swift’s presence at the games is an added layer of amplification,” SponsorUnited chief marketing officer Michelle Harmon-Madsen told TheWrap. “Mega pop culture icons like Taylor can certainly enhance the visibility and marketability of events, indirectly impacting sponsorship decisions.”
Heading into the Super Bowl, the Chiefs’ brand value is equivalent to $331.5 million, a figure that’s “in direct correlation with Taylor’s influence,” Harmon-Madsen said.
Ed Horne, president of Endeavor owned marketing agency 160over90, which has worked with 14 brands, including six NFL league partners, sees Swift’s involvement bolstering sponsors’ interest in the league.
“The brands that we work with that are also NFL partners or NFL sponsors, while they may not be able to necessarily leverage Taylor Swift or the IP of Taylor Swift, it certainly increases and enhances, or at the very least reinforces, the value of their commitment and investment in the NFL,” Horne said.
Horne emphasized that the NFL has been “doing just fine on its own” and was hesitant to say Swift attending games directly impacted ad spends for the 2023-2024 season.
“But rising tides raise all boats,” Horne said. “The interest clearly gives advertisers more reason to engage with the NFL.”
Super Bowl LVIII has been selling especially well. In addition to ad space for the game selling out, the simulcast airing on Nickelodeon also sold out its air time. Both Nickelodeon and CBS, the network airing the big game this year, share Paramount Global as a parent company. Most of the commercials on Sunday will air acoss CBS, Nickelodeon and Paramount+, with packages ranging between $6.5 million and $7 million for a 30-second spot.
There’s also evidence that Swift’s appearance impacted fans’ spending habits. According to the ticket reselling company Stubhub, within 24 hours after Swift first appeared at a Chiefs’ game on Sept. 24, 2023, the Kansas City team experienced a three times increase in sales for home games. That day the team also saw the most single-day sales on StubHub since the season’s start.
The bump is not all Taylor Swift
As much fun as it is to solely credit this boom to America’s favorite billionaire, doing so would be inaccurate. The NFL has been exploding in value. In August — over a month before Swift attended her first game — the total valuation of all 32 NFL teams came to $164.54 billion according to Sportico, a 24% increase from the $132.5 billion the league was valued at in 2022.
And the Chiefs have played extraordinarily well. As of Feb. 11, the team will have appeared in the Super Bowl four out of the last five seasons.
Interest is also up because of the San Francisco 49ers. The last time the California team appeared in the Super Bowl was five years ago during its matchup with the Chiefs. That face-off ended with the Chiefs beating the 49ers 31 to 20, meaning that this game isn’t just the biggest NFL event of the year. It’s a highly anticipated rematch.
Ticket trends prove that interest from 49ers fans is a big factor in the bump for Super Bowl LVIII. According to StubHub, sales are currently outpacing Super Bowl LIV in Miami by three times in the same time frame. Compared to 2020, the last time the 49ers were in the Super Bowl, three times as many 49ers fans have purchased tickets.
But super-fueling all of this on Sunday from the stands at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas will be the mega-pop star. The NFL never needed Taylor Swift, but they have undoubtedly benefited from having her.
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