Kansas City Chiefs may have comprehensively beaten the Chicago Bears when they met in their NFL clash on Sunday, but the American football action wasn’t necessarily what attracted the weekend’s biggest TV audience to the game.
Pop superstar Taylor Swift was watching from the private box of Chiefs player Travis Kelce, whom she's rumoured to be dating. And with the game not only beating every "primetime fixture on the weekend slate", with 24.3 million people tuning in, but also ranking "first for women aged 12-49", there are "many speculating" that the vast amount of additional viewers was "made up heavily of 'Swifties'", said the Daily Mail.
Swift's appearance has no doubt had a significant "short-term impact" on the NFL's reach, and the coming together of "two of the biggest cultural phenomena" in the US "possibly brought in a whole new group of fans", said Fox News.
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'A cultural juggernaut'
Even before the start of her current Eras Tour, Swift was a global sensation. But she has become a "cultural juggernaut" and now sits at "the center of an otherwise splintered music world", said Ben Sisario in The New York Times (NYT).
Swift fans harbour a particular "fascination" for her "pretty unique" love life, journalist Rebecca Reid told the BBC. Swift's songs are “incredibly personal", making fans "feel like we know her".
Travis Kelce, meanwhile, is "maybe the greatest tight end in history", said The New Yorker, and is a two-time Super Bowl champion. His "media appearances in commercials and on shows like 'Saturday Night Live'", as well as hosting a podcast, have made him "one of the more recognizable athletes in the country", added Fox News.
In July Kelce had talked in his podcast about trying to meet Swift at one of her concerts, and the "rumour machine was working" as reports grew that they were romantically involved, said The New Yorker. Then she appeared "in the flesh, in his suite, next to his mom" at last weekend’s game in Kansas City, and a clip of her "jumping up and down, cheering" when Kelce scored a touchdown "immediately went viral".
Both Kelce and Swift have "remained quiet about whether they are friends or a couple" or whether they are "two celebrities trying to leverage each other's fame", said Emmanuel Morgan in the NYT. What's clear though is that despite Kelce already having relatively high fame in the US, "becoming part of the frenzied conversation" around Swift is "another ballgame".
While Kelce is already one of the NFL's "most marketable stars", according to the official NFL retailer, the link with Swift meant sales of his "jersey had spiked by 400% as of Monday". What's clear, added Morgan, is that "the attention could be benefiting them both".
'Swiftmania' sweeps the NFL
The Swift/Kelce link is "a dream pairing for the NFL", said The New Yorker, thanks mainly to the amount of Swift fans "watching at home and learning about football" for the first time. It was an "alliance" by the NFL with the "only cultural force in America bigger than itself".
Swift's "mere presence" at the fixture made it "more than just a typical game" and some players, including Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, were asked about Kelce and Swift in post-game interviews, said Fox News. Whether she will "bring new permanent fans to the league is another thing entirely".
The sudden increase in exposure for the NFL is felt even more distinctly "because it felt like the sport had already reached or was nearing saturation in the US", said Cork Gaines at Insider. When "Swiftmania swept through" the NFL it "drowned out" the league's other big announcements, including that Usher would play the half-time show at the Super Bowl in February.
The NFL has made a conscious effort to expand its reach in recent years, with a particularly "strong push to expand its market overseas", including playing fixtures in the UK and Germany, with a recent announcement it will be putting on games in Brazil and Spain. But while the NFL thought it "needed to go overseas to get bigger", perhaps instead it "just needed three hours of Taylor Swift in the stands".
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