How Taylor Swift lit up advertisers’ Super Bowl playbooks

This story is part of Digiday’s annual coverage of the Super Bowl. More from the series →

Time for a Super Bowl advertising history lesson: Social media war rooms, football hashtags, memes, and online teasers for TV ads have all had their moments over the years. Now, it’s Taylor Swift’s turn in the spotlight.

The pop star has become inextricably linked to the big game this year as a result of her relationship with one of the players in it, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce. The culmination of the media attention that has been devoted to their relationship — and the impact it has had on advertisers — is likely to play out when the Chiefs play the 49ers this Sunday.

Swift has generated a staggering brand value of $331.5 million for the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL, per Front Office Sports, which cited data from Apex Marketing Group, as of Jan. 22. This figure accounts for mentions of Swift across various media channels like print, digital, radio, TV, highlights and social media, dating back to her first appearance at a NFL game on September 24.

Call it the Swift effect, and advertisers like e.l.f Cosmetics and Fireball have been well and truly swept up in it. They faced a clear choice: either launch a campaign now if they had the resources or risk missing out on what could potentially become a defining pop cultural moment, especially if the Chiefs secure a championship.

As Baruch Labunski, CEO of digital marketing company Rank Secure explained: “One thing is for sure in this type of marketing: You have to make the most of it now, but it will not last. There will be a new trend within a couple of months so it’s best to put more talent and creativity into this kind of marketing rather than money.”

The brand responses to incorporating Swift into their activations around the Vegas Super Bowl have varied. American Airlines was one of the more overt brands and renamed flights from Kansas City to Las Vegas, where the Super Bowl is taking place this year, in tribute to Swift and Kelce. The airline has launched flight 1989, a nod to Swift’s popular album, and flight number 87, honoring her partner Kelce. 

Elsewhere, Kansas City-based nail brand HOOPLA took things a step further by creating an entire social media series centered around Swift and Kelce. Leading up to the game, the nail has also launched ‘LOVE’ polish set, which has proven a hit with customers and is now down to its last 13 sets, according to a spokeswoman for the brand. Not stopping there, the nail brand sent out emails to customers yesterday (Jan. 6), offering a free surprise if they enter the code ‘TAYVIS’.”

HOOPLA has been marketing around Swift since the news broke about the “Tayvis” relationship, said the spokeswoman. “As you might imagine, to be known as where Taylor gets her manicures or pedicures when she is in town would be revolutionary for this small, female-owned (and PETA-certified) nail polish brand and salon.”

On a national level, even giants like L’Oréal and NYX Cosmetics are purchasing their first national spots during the game. Dove is also making a return to the event as an advertiser for the first time in 18 years. While none of these brands explicitly attribute their moves solely to Swift, it’s difficult to ignore the significant role her newfound association with the sport has played. 

The overlap between Swift’s audience and the NFL offers marketers an opportunity for greater reach across both television and social media. This especially opens doors for the likes of L’Oréal and NYX Cosmetics to directly connect with the Super Bowl’s substantial female audience and the football-curious legions of Swift fans.

“Given the limited overlap between Taylor Swift’s large audience and the NFL’s, this year’s Super Bowl could bring a significant addition of ‘new’ viewers that wouldn’t have tuned in without Travis Kelce playing,” said Jill Nicholson, CMO of Tubular Labs.

However, once it was public, some of these advertisers seized the opportunity to run even more ads to capitalize on his elevated profile, per The Wall Street Journal. It was, in many ways, a no-brainer. Especially considering he’s now one of the most accessible and influential NFL athletes. Just take a look at his social media following. CreatorIQ notes that over 44% of Kelce’s Instagram audience is female. Moreover, in the past year alone, Kelce’s Instagram and TikTok following has grown by a staggering 309%, reaching a combined total of 10.6 million followers across both platforms. 

His significant influence, along with his well-thought-out media presence and relatable everyman persona, makes him a dependable choice for many marketers. And let’s be honest, he’s probably a more cost-effective option than Swift.

His profile has led some marketers to question whether he’ll be in an ad himself this Super Bowl.

“The use of celebrity talent has risen to all-time highs in Super Bowl ads in recent years, appearing in over 65% of spots in each of the last four games,” said Peter Daboll, chief strategy & insights officer, iSpot. “Given Travis Kelce’s wide popularity and one of the NFL’s most-seen endorsers, he will undoubtedly appear in a Super Bowl ad this year.  Of course, appearing in an ad while playing can also create some potential polarizing backlash, perhaps with 49er fans.”

But advertisers haven’t stopped there. They’ve also enlisted Kelce’s mom, Donna, to promote Ziploc bags ahead of the game and Kelce’s sister-in-law, Kylie, the wife of Travis’ brother and fellow NFL star Jason, who will be the face of Dove’s return to the Super Bowl this year, starring in a TV spot to promote its support of the Body Confident Sport Program, a global program that aims to stop girls from dropping out of sport because of body image concerns. 

The same trend extends to other NFL couples. For instance, San Francisco player Christian McCaffrey and his wife, model Olivia Culpo, as well as McCaffrey’s teammate Kyle Juszcyzk and his wife, Kristin, who has a licensing deal with the NFL after the puffer jacket Kristin designed for Swift went viral.

“As a result of all this activity, the NFL is seeing a massive uptick in visibility and engagement around social content featuring NFL couples,” said Alex Rawitz, director of research and insights at CreatorIQ.

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