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The impact of Taylor Swift being on the NFL bleachers

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

OK. We now know who's going to play in the Super Bowl in a couple of weeks. The San Francisco 49ers will face the Kansas City Chiefs in Las Vegas. Now, this is not going to be a conversation about the matchup, but rather about one megastar who might be there. Taylor Swift has attended most Chiefs games this season to cheer on her boyfriend, star tight end Travis Kelce. That has had a huge impact on the NFL. The league had its highest regular season viewership among women since it began tracking in 2000. Research by the Apex Marketing Group says Swift's association with the NFL has added the equivalent of around $330 million in brand value to the Chiefs and the league.

Nora Princiotti is a staff writer for The Ringer and self-proclaimed Swiftie. Thanks for joining us again.

NORA PRINCIOTTI: Absolutely, so glad to be here.

SHAPIRO: People have been talking about the Swift-Kelce relationship for months now, but yesterday the attention really seemed to ramp up. What did you see?

PRINCIOTTI: Well, we saw, first of all, the Chiefs win the AFC Championship Game and earn their way into the biggest sporting event of the year. And Taylor Swift still managed to be one of the biggest storylines from that game, you know, despite not being on the field, right? And whether you consider it sort of a sideshow or this thing that's really wonderful and has brought a lot of new viewers into the sport, it's a phenomenon that, you know, I've covered the NFL for a long time, and I've followed Taylor Swift for a long time. I never imagined they would come together in this way.

SHAPIRO: And she's not the first celebrity to date an NFL star, so why has this become such a phenomenon?

PRINCIOTTI: Well, you know, part of it, I think, is just where she is in this real empirical phase of her career. She had the biggest tour of the summer. The pop cultural event of the year, I would say, was the Eras Tour. And midway through the first big leg of it, she starts dating Travis Kelce, who, you know, he might not have been a household name for most people, but he's one of the stars of the NFL, you know, the star tight end of this budding Kansas City dynasty. So you have these two elements of our last bits of monoculture sort of coming together, and it really created this phenomenon.

SHAPIRO: Well, I mentioned the economic boost that Taylor Swift has brought the league. Social media interest is way up. Sales of Chiefs merch are up. What does she mean to the NFL?

PRINCIOTTI: I think that's a really, really interesting question because I think you see it in the numbers. You see it in the merchandise sales. I see it in, you know, in my group texts with a lot of friends who do not normally follow football. And, you know, I'm not saying that they're tuning into every game. They don't have suddenly hot takes about the Jets defensive line, but they know what's going on in a way that is different from before this started to happen.

So I think what it means for the NFL is a real presence of this kind of hyper-femininity that's really rare in such a, you know, normally macho, masculine environment. And the NFL for years and years has been trying to court women and court more women fans, and to be frank, they haven't always been very good at it. And they have sort of stumbled into this, like, hyper-influencer who's doing a lot of that work for them really well.

SHAPIRO: All right. Just in our last 30 seconds, I got to ask, will Taylor Swift even make the Super Bowl? Because she's got a show in Tokyo the night before.

PRINCIOTTI: Yes, thanks to the international dateline. So she can leave the concert in Tokyo at like 11:30, and if she goes right to the airport, flies to LA or Reno or Las Vegas or something, and then drives there, she should be able to be there, actually, by Saturday night.

SHAPIRO: That is Nora Princiotti doing the math, staff writer for The Ringer and Swiftie. It's always good to talk to you. Thank you.

PRINCIOTTI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Ari Shapiro
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Mia Venkat
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.