American Football (Taylor’s Version): What’s up with Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce?

Taylor Swift with pals Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds at the Kansas City Chiefs' game against the New York Jets on Sunday (1 October).
Taylor Swift with pals Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds at the Kansas City Chiefs' game against the New York Jets on Sunday (1 October). Copyright Adam Hunger/AP Photo
By Anca Ulea
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Taylor Swift is still filling football stadiums in the US, even while on a break from her Eras Tour. Here's all you need to know about why Swifties are now into the NFL.


On a break from one of the most successful tours in history, Taylor Swift has once again achieved the impossible: Getting non-Americans to care about American football.

Swift’s appearance at the Kansas City Chiefs’ game last week to cheer on her rumoured love interest, tight end Travis Kelce, set off a global media frenzy and put Kansas City (which is, perplexingly, not in the state of Kansas) on the world stage.

The pop superstar fuelled the rumour mill again on Sunday when she brought an A-list posse - including Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman - to another Chiefs game in New York City.

Adam Hunger/AP Photo
Taylor Swift and friends at the Chiefs-Jets game on Sunday (1 October).Adam Hunger/AP Photo

The Chiefs may have won the Super Bowl this year, but the attention they’re getting now that Swifties around the world have been activated is on a whole other level.

The team and the National Football League (NFL) as a whole are benefiting from what’s been dubbed the “Taylor Swift effect.”

NFL ticket sales and viewership soar

“Sunday Night Football” is already the most-watched primetime show in the US, but the Chiefs’ game on 24 September, when Swift first attended, saw viewership spike 63 percent week-over-week among women aged 18 to 49, Swift’s prime fan demographic.

Sales of Travis Kelce’s football jersey shot up 400 percent since the rumours of his romance with Swift began.

Adam Hunger/AP Photo
Sales for Travis Kelce's jersey have spiked around 400 percent since rumours of his romance with Taylor Swift.Adam Hunger/AP Photo

And ticket sales for the Jets’ game against the Chiefs also soared, with single day sales more than doubling the previous record for this season, according to ticket resale platform StubHub.

Stubhub said that Sunday's game was the second-highest selling game of the NFL season after the season opener.

Capitalising on the new viewership, US broadcasters cut often to shots of Swift celebrating with Kelce’s mother and her friends during Sunday’s game, much to some football fans’ chagrin.

Ed Zurga/AP Photo
Taylor Swift with Travis Kelce's mom, Donna Kelce, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.Ed Zurga/AP Photo

“I wouldn’t be surprised if someone from the nfl told commentary to mention Taylor swift as often as possible,” wrote Reddit user wordtomytimbsB in a thread about Sunday’s game on the subreddit r/nfl.

Conspiracy theories even started to spread that the referees rigged the game in the Chiefs’ favour to keep Swift fans interested in the sport. The Chiefs beat the Jets 23-20.

Reddit user Dingos8mybaby2 wrote: “The NFL swayed the game to try and not let ‘Taylor Swift's team’ lose on national TV while the Swift story is still fresh. Thousands of ‘Swifties’ were tuned into the game just to see glimpses of her and having ‘their’ team win provides a better chance that some of them end up converting into NFL fans.”

Are they or aren’t they? Swift and Kelce aren’t saying

Both Swift and Kelce have stayed quiet about their relationship status. Kelce said on his “New Heights with Jason and Travis Kelce” podcast earlier this week that Swift “looked amazing” at the game.

“Everybody was talking about her and in a great light,” he said of Swift’s time spent in his suite at the Chiefs’ stadium. “And on top of that, you know, the day went perfect for Chiefs fans. Of course, we script it all, ladies and gentlemen.”

Adam Hunger/AP Photo
Travis Kelce said he invited Taylor Swift to watch him play on 24 September.Adam Hunger/AP Photo

Apparently, Kelce’s the one who made the first move. The football player invited Swift to his game after trying – and failing – to give her a friendship bracelet when her Eras Tour made its stop in Kansas City.

Swift fans have been famously trading friendship bracelets with the names of her songs on them during her latest tour.

The tradition comes from her song “You’re On Your Own, Kid” from her most recent album “Midnights,” inspired by lyrics about connecting with people through friendship bracelets: “Cause there were pages turned with the bridges burned / Everything you lose is a step you take / So make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it / You’ve got no reason to be afraid.”

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Photo
Taylor Swift fans have been trading friendship bracelets with song references at her Eras Tour.Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Photo

Kelce’s friendship bracelet for Swift had his phone number on it instead of a song reference.

In any case, Kelce has said he’s trying to keep a sense of humour about the whole thing.

“It’s hilarious how much traction this has actually got,” Kelce said on a talk show. “It’s like an old game in school called ‘Telephone,’ where everybody is just whispering in each other’s ear, just hearing some random stuff. No one actually knows what’s going on.”

Swift is currently on a break from her Eras Tour – the 12-time Grammy award winner will resume touring on 9 November in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Additional sources • AP, Reuters

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