The NFL Didn’t Reject Taylor Swift. We Shouldn’t Either.
I’m not a Chiefs fan or a Swiftie. My wife received folklore a couple Christmases ago, but I’ve only popped the disc in a couple of times and listened to a handful of songs.
My most prominent Taylor Swift consumption has been when my toddlers dance around the kitchen to “Anti-Hero.” What I do know about the 34-year-old Pennsylvanian is that she is incredibly successful. Her $1.1 billion net worth dwarfs Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Andy Reid’s combined. Over the weekend she won her 13th and 14th Grammy Awards, including her fourth Album of the Year, the most ever by any artist.
After the Chiefs beat the Ravens to advance to their 4th Super Bowl in 5 years, Front Office Sports reported that Swift has generated “$331.5 million for the Chiefs and the NFL,” while contributing to 9% and 6% increases in female and male viewership this season compared to last, respectively.
Certainly, the country-turned-pop star isn’t responsible for all of the increase in popularity for the nation’s most popular sport, but her presence certainly has helped draw in fringe fans.
If for a second you think that Swift is trying to generate popularity by dating Kelce to find her way onto broadcasts, find a different conspiracy theory. She doesn’t need the NFL, the Chiefs, or Kelce to promote her brand. She is an international superstar of proportions that the NFL may never reach, let alone any one of its players.
She may seem like just “the girlfriend” during Chiefs games. But in reality, she’s the headliner and Travis is the opener.
From the league’s perspective, capitalizing on the Taylor Swift phenomenon was brilliant, if not only lucky, business.
The NFL is an entertainment business. Most teams have cheerleaders. The NFL plans, promotes, and props up their Super Bowl halftime show months in advance. The biggest game of the season is just as famous for its commercials as it is for the actual game.
For the NFL, if highlighting a wildly successful entertainer on their broadcasts had a possibility of increasing their entertainment value, they were going to do it.
The Goal, an acclaimed business novel by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, focused on management in a manufacturing setting, clearly articulates the objective of any for-profit organization: “So this is the goal: To make money by increasing net profit, while simultaneously increasing return on investment, and simultaneously increasing cash flow.”
So basically, the goal is to make money.
Swift has made the NFL boatloads of money, while costing them next to nothing. You needn’t have taken Finance 101 to know that the return on investment there is pretty good.
She didn’t have to do anything to generate all that cash for the NFL. She just shows up and CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, Prime, and NFL Network (am I missing any?) cameras find her. These same cameras pan to Brock Purdy’s parents multiple times throughout 49ers games after their son makes a big play; why should they not highlight a popular player’s even more popular girlfriend?
An underlying current of the anti-Swift movement among NFL fans is an annoyance that Swifties are coming out of the woodwork to jump on the Kansas City bandwagon while they couldn’t have cared less about football six months ago. “So now you care about football,” one may say to their friendly neighborhood Swiftie rocking a Taylor’s Version NFL sweatshirt and a red and gold beanie.
So what if there is a new following for one of the NFL’s best teams? And so what if they “don’t know ball”, as the kids say? Why do “actual football fans” have a monopoly on who follows the NFL?
Plenty of sports fans and non-fans alike will be tuning in for the Super Bowl on February 11 who haven’t watched a minute of Kansas City Chiefs football this season. Honestly, the Swifties probably know more about the team that will wear red in Las Vegas than most of the casual, non-Swiftie, sports fans will.
And who knows, when the 2024 NFL season fires up in late summer, some fans who may not have cared before Taylor got involved, may just stick around. Maybe her presence will have made some football fans for life. For, if one is turning on a Chiefs game just to see Taylor jumping up and down next to Brittany Mahomes, they’ll have had to endure the, you know, actual football part.
Isn’t an insurgence of fandom good for us, for the league, for everyone? Why not add to the NFL fan community? Being a fan of a team, of a sport, is so much better when experienced alongside a collection of others, regardless of how much they can tell you about Cover 2 or run schemes out of 12 personnel.
For those who are so irritated by Swift consuming a few seconds of air time on Sundays and the blank spaces on their social feeds, the next steps are simple: get off social media and don’t watch the Super Bowl or any future Chiefs broadcast. You won’t have to hear from her again.
Taylor Swift is a star. The NFL recognized it and embraced it. It’s time we do too.
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Will is a husband, father, and earned an undergraduate degree in Economics (just like Kwesi Adofo-Mensah). Will’s favorite pastimes are water skiing, Minnesota sports, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Formerly, he contributed to Vikings Territory. He is the co-host of the Load the Box Vikings Podcast with Jordan Hawthorn. Follow him on Twitter (@willbadlose) and find his other sports content at Twins Daily and his very own Bad Loser Blog.