How Taylor Swift and the NFL Complete One Another | Mint

How Taylor Swift and the NFL Complete One Another

How Taylor Swift and the NFL Complete One Another
How Taylor Swift and the NFL Complete One Another

Summary

The NFL needs more avid female fans. Taylor Swift could use some more dedicated dudes. Her presence at games could help them both.

The NFL needs more women to complete its takeover of the American sports landscape. There is plenty of room for more men in Taylor Swift’s legion of “Swifties" as she continues her quest for total pop-culture supremacy.

Now it seems that Swift and the NFL have stumbled upon the perfect solution to fill the gaps in each other’s audiences: They have joined forces. And the ability of these two behemoths to combine their largely divergent fandoms could help sustain the long-term dominance of both enterprises.

With the “Eras Tour" concert film set to be released in theaters next week, it’s clear that Swift has officially entered her NFL era. She has attended the Kansas City Chiefs’ last two games, amid speculation that she’s romantically involved with star tight end Travis Kelce.

On Sunday, Swift brought along a squad of other celebrities—including the actors Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Hugh Jackman—to see the Chiefs narrowly escape with a win over the New York Jets. (The ultimate sign of Swift’s power might be that she convinced these A-listers to willingly spend an evening in New Jersey.)

Swift’s presence at NFL stadiums watching football—instead of performing “Cruel Summer" and “Anti-Hero" for 70,000 fans in friendship bracelets—has brought a surprise opportunity for the league to court a demographic it has long coveted: young women.

Viewership across NBC’s platforms among girls aged 12-17 rose 53% from the average of the previous three weeks of “Sunday Night Football," according to the network. The audience among women aged 18-24 increased 24% and 35% among women aged 35 and older, resulting in a total viewership increase of approximately 2 million female viewers.

The NFL has fully embraced the arrival of the Swifties, a famously devoted fan base that fervently analyzes and dissects Swift’s every move. On X, the social-media platform formerly known as Twitter, the NFL earlier this week changed the banner photo on its official account to three images of Swift cheering at a game. Its bio read, “We had the best day with you today," a reference to a Swift song. The league went even further on Instagram, briefly changing its bio on Monday to read: “chiefs are 2-0 as swifties."

Ian Trombetta, senior vice president of social, content and influencer marketing for the NFL, said videos of Swift and Kelce on the league’s platforms have reached nearly 200 million views over the last nine days. The social-media team has jumped on the opportunity to engage new viewers, particularly women and younger people.

On TikTok, the NFL has posted several videos breaking down the rules of the sport, the league and Kelce’s career. That’s due in part to the growing number of questions new viewers peppered in the comments, asking for explanations for things like the number of yards in a first down.

“Especially for young women, but Taylor Swift fans in general who may not have been watching NFL games or are as familiar with the game, we’re really opening the door to say, ‘Here’s what football is, here are the basic foundational rules, here’s some of the players,’" Trombetta said.

Many Swift fans don’t need a remedial approach: Female Swift fans were more likely than the average female respondent to have watched, listened to or attended a sporting event in the past three months, according to data and insights from Luminate’s Artist & Genre Tracker as of July.

Women watched the NFL in large numbers long before Swift showed up. Commissioner Roger Goodell said in 2020 that 47% of all NFL fans are female. But the gender breakdown among the sport’s most ardent followers is far different. Twice as many men as women describe themselves as avid NFL fans, according to Statista.

Swift’s followers are the opposite demographics. Though a Morning Consult survey earlier this year concluded that men make up 48% of Swift’s fan base, there’s little doubt her biggest devotees are women.

At “Eras Tour" concerts around the country, viral videos surfaced online of women commandeering men’s bathrooms at stadiums because women’s rooms were full. A spokeswoman for Fandango said that 75% of the ticket-buyers for the “Eras Tour" film on the platform have been women and girls. (A spokesman for AMC Theatres, which is distributing the movie, had no comment.)

The NFL has shown that the best way for something to remain enormously popular is to have mass appeal across demographics. It’s why the NFL has made women and girls a massive part of its effort to expand the sport, viewing them as an untapped group of potential players and fans. The NFL has funded and promoted flag football for girls in high school, where boys outnumber girls by about 1 million on tackle football teams. Eight states now hold championships for girls flag football.

Now the NFL has put its mammoth muscle behind the adoption of flag football as an official sport for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics—a decision that could come down within weeks. If it happens, the flag football competition would include women’s teams, as the International Olympic Committee increasingly requires gender equality in its event program.

Landing an Olympic spot for a version of its football would be a coup for the NFL, which is ubiquitous in the U.S. but little-watched in most other countries.

Swift’s presence at Chiefs games is just another potential entry point for people who might not otherwise watch football. It’s possible some will drop the NFL if Swift’s relationship with Kelce ends—or when Swift heads to South America next month to continue her world tour.

As for Swift, her foray into the NFL might not lead to tens of thousands of men in football jerseys suddenly filling stadiums for her concerts—but it could help to break down a stigma.

Ben Curtis, a Washington-based sports broadcaster and a dedicated Swiftie, said there are many men who hide their fandom because of social pressure. When Swift last year did a promo for her latest album on “Thursday Night Football," announcer Al Michaels faced backlash after he suggested Swift is only popular among teenage girls and that his broadcast partner’s kids wouldn’t be interested because they are boys.

“There’s this concept that they’re guilty pleasure songs," Curtis said. “There’s a fragile masculinity thing about liking the same thing as a teenage girl."

It turns out Swift had already laid the groundwork for her NFL fandom. In 2020, she released a song called “Gold Rush" that included a lyric that referenced her “Eagles T-shirt hanging from the door." For more than two years, Swift fans debated whether she was referring to the band or the NFL team.

Then in May, at a concert at Lincoln Financial Field not far from her hometown of Wyomissing, Pa., Swift cleared things up.

“I love the band Eagles," Swift told the crowd. “But, guys, come on, I’m from Philly—of course it’s the team."

Write to Jared Diamond at jared.diamond@wsj.com, Rachel Bachman at Rachel.Bachman@wsj.com and Ashley Wong at ashley.wong@wsj.com

How Taylor Swift and the NFL Complete One Another
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How Taylor Swift and the NFL Complete One Another
How Taylor Swift and the NFL Complete One Another
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How Taylor Swift and the NFL Complete One Another
How Taylor Swift and the NFL Complete One Another
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How Taylor Swift and the NFL Complete One Another
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