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The NFL is (by quite a significant margin) the undisputed champ of American sports. Despite their impressive stature, the league continues its efforts of expanding their fanbase.

Whether this is reaching out to Latin Americans (who often favour a completely different “football”) or expanding further afield and growing a global audience; this season the NFL is bringing five games to England and Germany, giving the European market a taste of the live action. Then there’s Thursday Night Football, which streams on Amazon Prime Video in hopes of snagging a younger more tech-savvy crowd.

But one less-obvious and unplanned ace up their sleeve for brand growth was the impact of Taylor Swift attending the games. After being seen at a few of the Kansas City Chiefs games in support of her new NFL superstar beau Travis Kelce, the initial commercial results are already evident:

  • Sales in Kelce jerseys have said to have spiked by a whopping 400%, putting him in the top 5 players in the NFL for jersey sales.
  • Stubhub reported a threefold increase in Chief’s ticket searches.
    TV ratings spiked, as Fox Sports announced that one game drew 24.3 million viewers, making it the weekend's most-watched NFL match.
  • The same game also had the highest volume of female viewers between 12-49 years of age. As Professor Angeline Scheinbaum said, "It's a great opportunity for the NFL to bring in not only a new demographic of younger women who may have felt excluded from the game before, but also a new psychographic of people who are just looking for fun and entertainment.”

This influence has been coined the ‘Taylor Swift Effect’ - a term used to express the superstar’s sway on collective behaviour.

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How does this work?

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Although we now have a term that bears her name, it’s a concept that extends to many other celebrities, such as Kayne West’s impact on Adidas sales (before being dropped by the brand) and Cardi B’s influence on Christian Louboutin’s “bloody shoes” search traffic.

Research completed back in 1955 proved that mass media can ignite social influence. A study by Watts and Dobb’s revealed that influence isn’t solely driven by individuals but by a critical mass of easily influenced people. In fact, their research suggests that the influence of the Taylor Swifts / Kim Kardashians / Tom Brady’s of the world are only marginally more influential than average individuals. 

Really?? Yes, the influencer is actually only marginally more influential than the average person; a colleague recommending a book has just as much pull as Opera may in her book club. A best friend recommending a golf club may actually be just as or more influential than Tiger Woods using one on the course. 

It is not just about how persuasive the influencer is; it’s about how susceptible the crowd is to their influence.

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So how does it work? Why the boom in sales?

Don’t get us wrong; Taylor still wields some serious power; it would be comical to suggest otherwise. But what the research indicates is that her true influence is within her fanbase —the ‘Swifties’. 

The perfect example of this is Kelce’s Chiefs shirt: Taylor Swift didn’t wear Kelce’s jersey, nor did she tell her fans to do so. They adopted this behaviour among themselves, thanks to social contagion in action. People observed others like themselves taking action, and they joined in.

It’s people influencing people. Therefore, the Taylor Swift Effect should be largely attributed to her people, and their ability to influence one another.

In essence the Taylor Swift Effect isn’t about her single-handily moving mountains. It’s about her ability to foster a community that act together as opposed to a juggernaut force that bulldozes the masses to take action.


So, what can marketing leads learn from the Taylor Swift effect?

Don’t worry, we’re not going to recommend you shell out billions of dollars to get a named celebrity on board.

But what is very clear is, for modern marketers aiming to boost brands or engage a growing customer base, leveraging influence for action can be a goldmine. There are other ways to utilise collaborations and influence to boost awareness, drive sales and create unforgettable experiences that build long term loyalty. 

This is something our Story Director, Ted and Chief Creative Officer, Mike discuss in a recent podcast here

It also shows the power of connecting with a group of people with a shared mindset. It’s not just the brand itself that wields influence; it’s the people —the community—and their connections that mobilise larger groups.

That’s the real deal: the network effect.

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This opens up exciting possibilities for targeting and activating these groups through approaches that don’t solely rely on celebrities. Working on building brand perception, forging associations, and engaging in accessible collaborations can all help infiltrate a group, which in turn, influence themselves.

For bigger brands:
This can actually be about thinking small. Running more localised collaborations, running smaller scale local events, working with micro influencers and celebrities, as well as collaborating with smaller brands who they have a shared mindset and audience base. The recent product range between Brewdog and P&Co is a great example of this.

For smaller brands:
Collaborate with those around you, in your town, city, even specific neighbourhood to create hyper-relevance and cement your business as a vital component of the area.

Investing in your community and nurturing relationships among them can pay off big, just like it has for Taylor Swift, Kelce and the NFL. The same thing goes for brands and organisations. Invest in building a community, because it’s within that collective that the true power of influence will thrive. 

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