Friday, February 23, 2024

A Taylor Swift love story: How pop icon is bringing a new, young audience to the NFL

Arrie Flathouse debuted on Taylor Swift’s hit song “Tim McGraw.”

The pop icon was an integral part of Arrie, now 16,’s childhood as she grew up in the Houston area with two older sisters who adored Swift. Arrie also fell in love with Swift, dressing up as her for Halloween and listening to her albums.


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However, Arrie never had much interest in football, despite his mother, Kara, spending her weekends watching college and NFL games. That included games played by the Chiefs since Kara, like Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, is a Texas Tech alum. Despite Kara’s attempts to interest her daughters, soccer never caught on with Arrie, so Kara usually spent her weekend afternoons watching games alone.

But that changed last summer after Arrie saw clips from the “New Heights” podcast, on which one of the hosts, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, described his attempts to give Swift his number via a friendship bracelet.

The little exchange had a huge impact on Arrie.

Already a devoted listener of the podcast, Kara was so excited when her daughter started talking about Kelce’s clips. Over the next few months, social media worked its magic, and by the time Swift showed up to her first Chiefs game in late September, Arrie was listening.

“It’s crazy,” Arrie said. “These are not the theories of the Swifties. It’s real. That’s when I started watching football because I was like, ‘If she’s going to go to the games, I have to see her.’ »

Since then, Arrie has tuned into just about every Chiefs game, embracing not only the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce romance, but the entire Kelce family. She watched the Amazon Prime documentary about her brother, Eagles center Jason Kelce, became a devoted listener to the Kelce brothers’ “New Heights” podcast and even started watching Eagles games.

“Even though Taylor’s not here, I think I enjoy (the game) a lot more,” said Arrie, whose parents have promised to buy him a Travis Kelce jersey soon.

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Kara smiles as she listens to her daughter describe her new interest in a sport in which she bonded with her own father. Kara doesn’t want to push too hard, but she loves it when she sees Arrie’s head go over the banister if she hears football on TV. To Kara’s delight, this tends to lead to spending quality time together watching games with her daughter. It also raises questions about the sport itself.

“It’s been really fun for me,” said Kara, who posted a viral video in the fall about her joy that Swift had finally converted her daughter into a soccer fan. “I love it.”

The Flathouse family is not an anomaly. Far from there. Swift’s arrival on the soccer scene has led to countless stories of soccer-loving parents bonding with their Swiftie kids. Even Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt hears them.

“Dads often come up to me and say, ‘My 10- and 12-year-old daughters never watched football, but now they tell me that every time the Kansas City Chiefs play, I tell them so that they can watch. » Hunt said this week in Las Vegas, where the Chiefs prepare to face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII. “I was at a function a little over a week ago and had a woman, probably in her 20s, come up to me, introduce herself as a Swiftie and tell me that all her family were fans of the Dallas Cowboys and used to not follow football at all, but now she’s going all-in on the Kansas City Chiefs. I think there are many such examples.

A story like that belongs to Todd Kale, a Cowboys fan who posted a now-viral video of his daughter Briley, 11, reciting football facts from his couch.

The Kale family lives near Houston. They are Cowboys season ticket holders and their five daughters love going to the games. They know the great players in Dallas, but have never actually watched the game with their father, preferring to enjoy the atmosphere of game day or just eating hot wings, their Sunday ritual, rather than involve a lot in football itself.

But Briley, the middle child of the family, grew up a Swift fan thanks to her older sisters and passed down the love of Swift to her younger siblings. Todd didn’t know how Briley first learned of Swift and Kelce’s connection, but a few months ago he was watching a Sunday night game with his wife and realized Briley was in the living room. She started asking questions: What is security? What is a cornerback? How many points is a touchdown worth?

It didn’t take Todd long to figure out where this was coming from.

“It really intrigued her that someone she really loved was now involved in something I really loved,” Todd said.

Since then, Briley has watched more Chiefs games and gained knowledge about the sport itself, absorbing it entirely.

“It’s every dad’s dream. … She loved football before, but I think she just loved the experience of it,” Todd said. “Now she’s learning more about the game.”

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Swift has been a storyline all season — with Kansas City winning nine of the 12 games she’s attended — and the Chiefs’ Super Bowl run has only taken that to the next level.

“There’s no question that as a fan, she put a more intense focus on the team than we otherwise would have,” Hunt said. “It opened up the fan base to a whole new demographic that we didn’t really have in young women. You’ve seen this in many ways, particularly in our television audiences. They’re much higher because Taylor Swift is on the team, as Kelce says.

Hunt is not wrong about TV ratings. Not only has the average number of viewers watching Chiefs regular season games in prime time increased this season compared to the previous two (a 39.4 percent jump from last year alone), but the percentage of female viewers also increased (up 3 percent). , according to Nielsen. And this increase in viewership carried over into the playoffs. The Chiefs’ divisional round victory over Buffalo averaged 50.4 million viewers, making it the most-watched divisional round or wild-card game of all time. The Chiefs’ win over the Ravens was the most-watched AFC Championship Game of all time, averaging 55.47 million viewers.

The league’s social media team also played an important role in introducing new audiences. The team embraced Swift’s first game in September, trying to be aware of all the new eyeballs on their feeds without overdoing it, said Ian Trombetta, SVP of social and influencer marketing at the NFL.

This theme has remained consistent throughout the season, although the strategy varies depending on the platform, Trombetta said. With some of those being younger, like TikTok and Snapchat, there are more reasons to embrace Swifties with their posts.

“We also think about it not only in terms of what we post on social media, but also how our partners cover it,” Trombetta said. “So that could be a broadcast partner. It could be a sponsor, etc. And when you take it all together, it can get pretty hot just in terms of the amount of coverage. And so for us, I think it really reminded us to take a broader view of all media coverage and understand our role in it.

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Swift’s emergence on the NFL scene has contributed to record engagement, with triple-digit growth in consumption across various platforms, according to Trombetta. Their audience continues to skew younger and diversify in the male/female split as well, he said.

Swift’s Super Bowl appearance is on hold thanks to her Eras Tour stop in Tokyo. If Swift is there to watch Kelce’s Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers, the league’s social team will devote time to his arrival and reactions, but with so much happening around the Super Bowl between the football and the show, it won’t just be Taylor Swift’s social feed.

“I think we’ve gotten to the point where overall it’s been a very celebratory thing,” Trombetta said. “And it’s certainly been positive for the league, positive for the Chiefs, positive for the Kelce family and obviously with Travis, and I think it’s been positive for Taylor as well. So we will continue to look at it in different ways, but also respect their relationship. So one should not invade privacy and seek to draw inspiration from where certain lines might lie on the degree of coverage and also keep the game in the foreground. It’s really important to us.

Still, there’s no doubt the league has attracted new fans thanks to Swift, as the Flathouse and Kale families can attest.

The Flathouse family will host an “I’m in my Super Bowl era” themed party on Sunday in honor of the Chiefs-Swift crossover.

There will be a giant friendship bracelet garland as well as appropriately themed food and drinks, including an “electric” mocktail, in honor of a word Kelce is very fond of using.

But what about next season, when the Swift magic may have run its course? That doesn’t matter to Arrie, who plans to continue following NFL games.

“I feel like I’m addicted now,” Arrie said.

– AthleticismNate Taylor of ‘sa contributed to this report.

(Photo illustration: Daniel Goldfarb / Athleticism;
(Photos: Jamie Squire, Patrick Smith and Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from



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