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Taylor Swift helped boost NFL ratings, but her power extends far beyond the league

The Taylor Swift economy is in full effect. Especially for the NFL.

The pop star, who is rumored to be dating Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, has been making waves after attending multiple games — and her appearances have led to big boosts in NFL ratings.

Sunday night's matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets, which Swift attended, drew 27 million viewers — making it the most-watched Sunday TV show since the last Super Bowl, according to NBC Sports.

Viewership among teen girls in particular spiked 53% from the season-to-date average of the first three weeks of "Sunday Night Football." The audience among women ages 18-24 was up 24%, while viewership for women over the age of 35 increased 34%.

The collective growth resulted in an approximate viewership increase of more than 2 million female viewers, NBC said.

Taylor Swift, top center, Blake Lively, second from left, and Ryan Reynolds, react during an NFL football game between the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Taylor Swift, top center, Blake Lively, second from left, and Ryan Reynolds, react during an NFL football game between the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

"[Taylor Swift's] stature is such that when she does something people follow," Marcus Collins, professor of marketing at Michigan Ross School of Business, told Yahoo Finance. "She's influencing a group of people and those people are influencing each other and other people. There's a network effect that's at play."

Collins added Swift's ability to "activate" her fans, known as "Swifties," is a massive benefit for a business as huge as the NFL.

"There was a consortium of people that tuned into these games that the NFL doesn't typically reach," he explained. "Those people are showing up not because they're fans of the NFL, which means that the league is now benefiting from this new meaning associated with it."

The professor added the NFL has an opportunity to understand this new fan base and engage in meaningful ways to keep their attention.

"What is it about these people, beyond their affinity for Taylor Swift, that the NFL could program around? That's the big question," he said.

Clayton Durant, founder of CAD Management, a music management and entertainment consulting firm, noted the NFL might need to adjust by attracting different types of advertisers in order to better serve this new audience or by committing to further changes to its in-game productions.

"Overall, that's going to be the biggest marketing content challenge — to keep this momentum going over the long term," he said.

Still, despite outcries from fans and even Travis Kelce himself that the NFL is "overdoing" its Swift-focused coverage, Durant said the league shouldn't pump the breaks on its Taylor Swift obsession just yet.

"People aren't just going to stop watching NFL games because there's maybe some more Taylor Swift references," he said. "They're still going to see the games, they're still going to want to go to the game. The value proposition hasn't dwindled [so the NFL] has a great opportunity here to bolster its viewership in a way that maybe hasn't been open to them before."

The Taylor Swift effect on brands

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 24: A fan holds a sign supporting Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce as the Kansas City Chiefs play the Chicago Bears during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on September 24, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
A fan holds a sign supporting Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce as the Kansas City Chiefs play the Chicago Bears during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on September 24, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) (Cooper Neill via Getty Images)

It isn't just TV ratings that have benefited from the Taylor Swift effect.

According to e-commerce site Fanatics, sales of Kelce's jersey spiked 400% following the Chiefs game against the Bears on Sept. 24 — the first time Taylor Swift was spotted in the stands. Since then, he has remained one of the top five sellers of jerseys after previously ranking 19th among all NFL players at the start of the regular season.

"[Kelce's] stock in terms of being a sponsor-able athlete has quintupled," Durant told Yahoo Finance, citing the athlete's surge of Instagram followers, which went up by 1.3 million in the weeks since the Swift rumors first began.

His podcast, New Heights, which he co-hosts with his brother and fellow NFL player Jason Kelce, has also clinched the top spot on Apple's podcast charts.

It's also been an equally lucrative period for Swift, as her high-profile appearances have boosted her own social media followers and Spotify music streams.

According to a report published by the newsletter Beats + Bytes and data software company Chartmetric, Swift's monthly listeners increased by 2.25% since the dating rumors first began in mid-September. She's also seen a 1.12% follower increase on Instagram, a 1.45% boost on YouTube, and a significant 5.37% jump on TikTok.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - SEPTEMBER 24: Taylor Swift reacts during a game between the Chicago Bears and the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on September 24, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
Taylor Swift reacts during a game between the Chicago Bears and the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on September 24, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) (David Eulitt via Getty Images)

"All this is saying that all the parties involved are seeing a mutually beneficial lift of being associated with one another," Durant said. "And behind the veil of that beneficial relationship that's happening, you're seeing a lot of brands want to get involved because [if] they can tap into the NFL fandom mixed with the Taylor Swift fandom then they can see great benefits themselves."

New Balance sneakers, which Swift wore to the first game she attended, reportedly saw a boost in sales.

According to an internal company presentation, cited by Complex, revenue for the sneaker she wore, the New Balance 550, was up 25% in the week following her appearance while units sold jumped 22%.

Site traffic to the New Balance 550 also increased by double digits, up 30%, as internal searches surged by 73%. New Balance did not immediately respond to Yahoo Finance's request for comment.

But perhaps most notable was the creation of a "Ketchup & Seemingly Ranch" condiment dressing by Heinz (KHC) following a viral tweet of what Swift had been eating during the game.

The creation of the sauce yielded massive results for the company with Google search inquiries for "Heinz" jumping by 61%, according to the Beats + Bytes report.

"From the brand perspective, you always have to think through a level of authenticity," Durant said, describing the Heinz product as a "perfect example of an authentic touch point."

"My recommendation is to not force it because the moment you force it, it becomes inauthentic," he continued.

Alexandra Canal is a Senior Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @allie_canal, LinkedIn, and email her at alexandra.canal@yahoofinance.com.

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