Taylor Swift bigger than the NFL? The numbers don’t lie.


Since Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce started traveling in the same orbit a few weeks ago, she has attended two Chiefs games, Frank Franklin II/AP Photo

The NFL’s approximate view of its own place in American society, as usually personified by Roger Goodell’s All-Pro-caliber pomposity: “Our programming dominates the fall television ratings year after year after year. Our franchises are worth billions, with a B. Stars don’t make the league. The league makes stars. We are the pinnacle of sport and entertainment. Nothing, and certainly no one, is bigger.”

Taylor Swift: “Bigger than no one? Hold my Coca-Cola.”

Of all the effects and angles from singer/icon Swift’s reported relationship with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, the most amusing is this: Her pop-culture influence dwarfs the NFL’s . . . and the NFL knows it.

At this point, if the league could actually convince her to perform at the halftime show — for a long time, its deal with Pepsi Co. was a roadblock because of Swift’s Coca-Cola sponsorship, but no longer — it would not come as a shock if the whole production were presented as “The Taylor Swift Halftime Show, featuring special guests the teams actually playing in the football game.”

Since Swift and Kelce started traveling in the same orbit a few weeks ago, she has attended two Chiefs games, a Sept. 24 win over the Bears in the 4:25 p.m. window on Fox, and last Sunday night’s win over the Jets on NBC.

The NFL and its broadcast partners have relentlessly promoted her appearances — particularly for the “Welcome to New York” Jets matchup, no matter that it was played in New Jersey. The league is understandably giddy at the reach her mere association with the NFL has had on demographics that aren’t typically the NFL’s strongest.

Consider: The Chiefs’ 41-10 victory over the winless Bears two weeks ago was the most-watched game of the week on any network, drawing 24.3 million viewers. It was also the most-watched game in three female age groups: the 12-17, 18-34, and 18-49 demographics.

Swift’s presence at that game, where she cheered on Kelce and the Chiefs from a luxury suite, might have caught some by surprise. But her presence was anticipated for last Sunday’s prime-time meeting, a surprisingly close 23-20 Chiefs win, and Swift managed to draw even more viewers to “Sunday Night Football,” which on its own has been the No. 1-rated program on fall prime-time television for the last 12 years.

That broadcast averaged approximately 27 million viewers, making it the most-watched Sunday program since Super Bowl LVII. Viewership was up 22 percent over last year’s “SNF” Week 4 matchup between the Chiefs and the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers, a compelling matchup that averaged 22.2 million viewers. Its streaming audience for the Week 4 game was up 43 percent over last year.

The broadcast earned a massive 83 share in Kansas City — meaning 83 percent of the televisions in use in the market were tuned in to the game. The share was 38 percent in New York. Both were “Sunday Night Football” records for the respective markets.

The gains in female viewership last Sunday were staggering, and let’s just say it wasn’t because Andy Reid all of a sudden has a new fan base. The early Nielsen data, which did not include out-of-home metrics, revealed that viewership among female viewers ages 12-17 was up 53 percent over the average of “Sunday Night Football’s” first three weeks. The audience grew 24 percent over the same span for women’s ages 18-24, and 34 percent for women 35 or older, resulting in more than 2 million additional female viewers.

The NFL has, of course, leaned into the Swift phenomenon. She was shown 17 times on the Sunday night broadcast, which must have made several NFL owners envious. Andrew Marchand at the New York Post reported that the league asked its broadcast partners to show promos for her upcoming “The Eras Tour” concert film for free. The NFL even defended itself to ESPN this past week when asked if it was receiving backlash for focusing too much on Swift.

“We frequently change our bios and profile imagery based on what’s happening in and around our games, as well as culturally,” the NFL said in a statement. “The Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce news has been a pop cultural moment we’ve leaned into in real time, as it’s an intersection of sport and entertainment, and we’ve seen an incredible amount of positivity around the sport.”

That’s all true and fair. So is this: The NFL is desperately rooting for the Swift-Kelce relationship, whatever the parameters happen to be, to last. Her concert film premieres Friday.