Are you a Swiftie? As Taylor Swift’s most loyal fans, this group’s encyclopedic knowledge of their favorite artist – and fearless defence of her – is known all too well.
However, they’ve also proven to be a powerful consumer movement. Many US cities have experienced a gold rush thanks to the artist’s Eras Tour, adding an estimated $5bn to the economy. They’re also not a group to have bad blood with; Swifties’ reactions to missing out on concert tickets led to the Senate investigating ticketing industry practices.
The NFL is currently the lucky one when it comes to their attention. Taylor Swift’s burgeoning relationship with American football player Travis Kelce has driven interest in America’s most-viewed sport from a new audience. Since ‘Tayvis’ hit public consciousness, the number of women watching NFL games she’s attended has increased by 63%, while Stubhub reports that ticket searches for games featuring Kelce have risen threefold.
How can brands tap into the Taylor Swift effect? By understanding what motivates Swifties, beyond the fact they’re enchanted with Taylor herself. To do this, you need to get to know them through their own words.
Relative Insight used a social listening tool to gather conversations about Travis Kelce and the NFL from people describing themselves as Swifties. This amounted to over 188,000 words — impossible for rapid analysis by a human.
This is where our audience research tool comes to the fore. The platform analyzes, quantifies and visualizes variations in different sets of text data, surfacing the topics, phrases, words, emotions and grammar used more prevalently by contrasting audiences.
In this case, we compared how Taylor’s superfans talked at each stage of the relationship. What’s clear is that the NFL could slip from holy ground to shaky ground if it doesn’t take Swifties’ views into account.
Taylor’s fans unmoved by Travis’s friendship bracelet
The Tayvis saga began with Travis Kelce recounting his experience at Taylor Swift’s Eras concert in Kansas City. In a July episode of his New Heights podcast, the NFL player revealed that he’d been unable to give the singer a friendship bracelet. However, the bracelet wasn’t just a blank space; it had Kelce’s phone number on it, which is why he was struggling to shake it off.
Despite the players tale hitting national media outlets, the story didn’t resonate with Swifties. During this period, our audience research tool found that their conversations relating to football were focused on the stadiums hosting her Eras Tour. Her fans were 2.2x more likely to talk about ‘stadiums’ during this period, while also talking about where she ‘toured’ infinitely more (meaning this word didn’t appear in conversations from later periods of the saga).
“She’s gonna be the first artist to perform in every US football stadium! Is she still missing any????“
Swifties split on Kelce rumors
Fast-forward to early September and Kelce’s complaints about a cruel summer ghosting could actually be how you get the girl. The media speculates that the pair have been “quietly hanging out“, which begins to pique Swifties’ interest. However, her superfans split into two clear camps at this stage.
One group is wary about reports of Taylor’s new lover. They use the word ‘rumors’ 18.4x more, stating that they don’t believe the gossip and telling those discussing it that they need to calm down and respect her privacy.
“It’s about ppl taking rumors of Taylor talking to an NFL man and turning it into dating rumors and acting as if it’s true and making literal edits or tweeting shit like ‘I want them to be dating’. Idc what you want it’s not your business you aren’t Taylor.“
However, the other Swiftie segment are ready for it. They use the word ‘true’ 4.6x more, expressing hope that the relationship is authentic.
“I hope this is true. I don’t think that Taylor could ever be with someone that isn’t well known/famous because of how famous she is. So maybe a football player would be perfect. ❤”
Taylor and Travis break the internet
Fans’ state of grace rapidly turns into a state of frenzy in late September when Swift watched Kelce play in an NFL fixture for the first time. Relative Insight’s audience research software uncovered three aspects of conversations as the relationship shifted from folklore to reality.
The first showed self-awareness from Swifties. They were infinitely more likely to talk about being ‘obsessed’, while also describing themselves as a ‘football cult’ infinitely more, breathlessly commenting on how they’d transformed watching a football game into a must-see event.
“Not the Swifties on the timeline watching football because Taylor is at the Chiefs game 😂.”
“Guys I’m so obsessed with Taylor and Travis, I’m invested.“
“I joined the football Taylor cult.“
Naturally, having chosen to watch football to see Taylor, her fans needed to know what was going on (beyond knowing that Travis Kelce plays for the team in red and there are 22 players). They were 4.4x more likely to use the words ‘learn’ and ‘learning’ in relation to football, with many who are already football fans offering to teach Swifties new to the sport.
“Newly football Swifties, I can help 😆 🙌🏻.”
“How angry do y’all think my boyfriend is gonna be when I’m magically willing to learn football now? 👀”
Tayvis’s launch also prompted fans to come up with a relationship name. This surfaced an interesting linguistic quirk, with Swifties abbreviating it to the ‘ship’ (4.2x), rather using the full word ‘relationship’.
“If we’re conjuring up a ship name for Taylor and Travis can it be Traylor? Like pls I think that is cute.“
The NFL welcomes Taylor to New York
Our audience research tool surfaced fascinating insights following Swift’s appearance in New York – flanked by fellow celebrities Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Sophie Turner and Hugh Jackman – to watch Kelce’s game.
The first of these is unrelated to the Kelce saga. Hours before Taylor’s appearance, the NFL broadcast a pioneering Toy Story collaboration to appeal to new audiences. The ‘Toy Story Funday Football alt-cast‘ featured an animated visualization from ‘Andy’s Bedroom’ of the Jacksonville and Atlanta game in London.
Analyzing conversations from Swift’s fans shows that the NFL met that objective, with these new fans talking about ‘toys’ 9.3x more. They also used the word ‘easy’ 5.8x more, praising how the broadcast was making the sport more accessible.
“For all our Swifties who are new to football, the Toy Story Funday Football segment on Disney+ is explaining the rules of the game really well!“
However, despite praise for the NFL’s portrayal of the London boys, there are signs the league is becoming an anti-hero among Taylor Swift’s fans. While fans were watching to see shots of Taylor, even her hardcore followers felt the broadcast was overemphasizing it.
They used words related to ‘excess’ 2.7x more, including ‘overdoing’, ‘excessive’ and ‘overreacting’, while being 2.9x more likely to describe it as ‘disrespect’. They also used the word ‘exploiting’ 15.0x more and the phrase ‘taking advantage’ infinitely more.
Verbatim examples show that were concerned that Swift would be unable to enjoy the game with the cameras constantly on her, as well as NFL attempting to boost its popularity without doing anything to benefit the artist herself.
“It is excessive. As a Swiftie… I am tired of it. Let them be!“
“PR relationships are always mutually beneficial. This is not beneficial for Taylor. She is not getting anything out of it.“
Audience research tool identifies key drivers for Swifties
Whether sparks fly or the pair end up never ever getting back together, Tayvis has provided a reminder of the power of Taylor Swift’s fanbase. Using Relative Insight’s audience research software, we’ve identified just what matters to devoted Swifties and what brands need to be mindful of when courting the artist’s fans.
They’ll readily admit that their obsessed with their heroine and will enthusiastically learn about new brands and activities that she shows an interest in. However, brands also need to earn legitimacy with this audience, or risk feeling their wrath. Swifties are dismissive of organizations looking to use Taylor Swift’s fame for their own benefit without helping her in return.
This discerning differentiation between helpful brands and unhelpful brands belies Swifties’ reputation as a group who are insatiable for all things Taylor Swift. Organizations wanting to appeal to this group need to tread carefully and demonstrate authenticity.
Want to find out more about how you can use Relative Insight’s audience research tool to get to the heart of what matters through qualitative data and understand different audiences in detail? Speak to one of our experts about how you can mine insights from text.