The NFL and Taylor Swift: A Love Story

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An exclusive article by Paul Krugman

Last semester we showed all we can learn about economics from the Eras Tour and its impact on local economies. Taylor Swift's influence doesn't stop with her tour-- the superstar is now having a positive economic impact on the NFL, as this season has benefited from its own Taylor-made love story. 

How has Swift’s love for her player impacted the game? Macmillan Learning author Paul Krugman now delves into "Taylor effect" on the NFL to show how Swifties have affected viewership, ticket prices, apparel, and more.

The NFL and Taylor Swift: A Love Story

Last month, TIME magazine named Taylor Swift its Person of the Year. Whatever you think of that choice, there’s no question that Swift, who has been playing to huge audiences worldwide, is a major cultural phenomenon. She’s also a major economic phenomenon: Not only are her concerts “raking in dollars” directly, they also have visible effects on local economies, as fans flocking to her events spend money on hotel rooms, restaurants and more.

And now, Swift even seems to be having a positive impact on the business of professional football, which is seeing increased public interest and viewership thanks to her romance with her “lover” Travis Kelce, a tight end for Kansas City Chiefs.

Why should economics students care about Swiftienomics and its impact on the NFL? Even if you aren’t a Swiftie, it’s interesting to examine how a single game attendee has had so much economic impact on the NFL, which is already in its own right a titan in the world of sports.

The NFL kicked off its 2023-2024 season without Taylor Swift and her loyal Swifties. Unknown to nearly every NFL owner, player, and fan, they were about to be handed a "Taylor'' made love story. On his popular podcast New Heights, Travis Kelce revealed his botched attempt to slip Swift his phone number on a friendship bracelet while attending her July concert at Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Chiefs.

Kelce was not the lucky one—or so it seemed. Two months later, with rumors flying, Kelce revealed on The Pat McAfee Show, "I threw the ball in her court. I told her, I've seen you rock the stage in Arrowhead; you might have to come see me rock the stage in Arrowhead." Three days later, it appeared that Kelce’s wildest dreams had come true as Swift was spotted in the stands at Arrowhead, alongside Travis's mom. The September 23 game against the Bears was the most-watched game of the week, according to Nielsen Media Research, nearly 24.3 million viewers tuned in, and it was the most-watched event among three key female age groups: 12-17, 18-34, and 18-49.

The NFL was flooded with a new following, as Swifties from all over the world started tuning in to see what their icon was wearing, eating, and who she was sitting with in the stands. The following week, Sunday Night Football showcased Taylor Swift, with the Chiefs playing the New York Jets as a secondary act. More than 27 million people watched the October 1 game, up from 22 million viewers over the same weekend the previous year. It's safe to say, more than 5 million people tuned in, not to watch football or hear Taylor sing, but for the possibility of spotting Swift. The "Taylor Effect" was also seen at the stadium. Fans flooded secondary ticket markets, after it was confirmed she would be attending, ticket prices surged 50%. Swifties showed up to the game wearing their friendship bracelets and their Eras Tour shirts-- the football game was only the setting to get a glimpse of the superstar. 

Thanks to Swift, the NFL is having a banner year. But Swiftienomics isn’t just benefiting the NFL. Following Swift's appearance at Arrowhead Stadium, Fanatics, the NFL's official e-commerce partner, reported a 400% increase in sales, with new fans buying Kelce's jersey or other Chiefs apparel. Swift has made a habit of showcasing her style in the stands; at recent games, she was spotted sporting vintage apparel or clothing from WEAR by sports reporter Erin Andrews, a trendy women's fan apparel brand. Thanks to Swift, demand for vintage NFL apparel is surging, and many Kansas City items by WEAR are sold out. As Andrews noted in People Magazine, “[Women are] like ‘Well, if Taylor Swift is going to wear it, I’m going to wear it!’” Even New Balance sales increased after Swift wore a pair of 550s to the September 23 game-- in the Chiefs colors, of course. 

Travis and his brother Jason's podcast New Heights found a new audience: Swifties hoping to catch the latest news on the budding relationship. By October 2023, the podcast hit #1 on Spotify, overtaking the Joe Rogan Experience. The podcast added more than one million listeners after Swift appeared alongside Donna Kelce, Travis's mother, at her first Chiefs game. In September, Amazon released the documentary Kelce, mostly featuring Jason Kelce, quickly rising to be its most watched documentary.

But not every NFL fan is happy with the Swiftmania. Many long-time, die-hard football fans want to see less Swift and more football. Shaking it off, Taylor replied, "I’m there to support Travis. I have no awareness of if I’m being shown too much and pissing off a few dads, Brads, and Chads.” 

Interested in using this article in class? Log into Achieve for Krugman/Wells Economics and you’ll find the article in assignable form alongside presentation slides and assessment questions! If you don’t have an Achieve account you can request access at that link.

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