Smith Brain Trust / October 12, 2023

Is the NFL’s Huge Spotlight on Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s Rumored Relationship a Good Look for the League?

There’s been some backlash to all of the attention the National Football League is giving to the assumption that singer-songwriter Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce are dating. Even Travis’ mom says she’s dealing with haters over it. Ever since Swift attended the Sept. 24 Chiefs-Bears game and then the Chiefs-Jets matchup the following Sunday, the NFL has capitalized off of the superstar power Swift appears to bring to everything she touches.

She has boosted the U.S. economy with her Eras Tour and now the NFL is benefiting from her presence at her alleged new boyfriend’s games. The Sept. 24 game was the most watched NFL broadcast of that week and the Chiefs’ Oct. 1 game was the highest rated since Superbowl LVII. That’s thanks in part to Swifties, half of whom are millennial women. But, USA Today reports Swift may also be helping the NFL attract Generation Z, including young women and girls. Female viewership of Chiefs games has spiked when it comes to women of all age groups.

Several scandals have popped up in recent years involving mistreatment of women by the NFL and its players. “Their image among women could use a lot of work,” says Judy Frels, clinical professor of marketing and Academic Director of MS in marketing analytics at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business. “Anytime there’s a story that involves an NFL player and a woman, it often is not a good one.” In light of that, it’s easy to see why the NFL is so happy to promote positive news about a player being romantically linked to an extremely famous woman.

But is all of the hype around what’s now being called “Traylor,” too much? “I think they’re finding a good balance.” Frels warns the league “needs to be careful,” but feels, “they haven’t overstepped so far. This is entertainment after all, let’s not confuse ourselves here.”

Swifties aren’t just tuning into Chiefs games. They’re buying up Travis Kelce jerseys and other merch. The NFL must be hoping the rumored romance between him and Taylor lasts for a while.

One wonders though if the frenzy over her attendance at his games will continue, or if it will become passé. “I think it’s got some staying power,” predicts Frels. “For people to see her reactions to her boyfriend performing on the field and to see her sitting with his mom—that gives a little insight into her as a person. And apparently, there’s no end to how much people want to know or be exposed to Taylor Swift.”

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