Tayvis, Traylor, Swiftce, Kelswift. Whatever your name for the couple with the most clout in culture right now, there is no doubt that it has become Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce's world – and we have become merely witnesses to the circus that surrounds them.
A case in point is this weekend’s Super Bowl, during which Kelce will be joining the Kansas City Chiefs, who are playing the San Francisco 49ers in the championship final. Swift is believed to be planning to travel through 17 different time zones from Tokyo – her Eras tour has started its Asian leg – to make it to the game in time to root for her boyfriend. Even the Japanese Embassy in Washington recognised the public’s interest, posting on X last week: ‘Despite the 12-hour flight and 17-hour time difference, the Embassy can confidently Speak Now to say that... she should comfortably arrive.’ Make no mistake: this is 2024 (Taylor’s Version).
In the B.S. times (that’s Before Swift to you and me), Swift and Kelce's are two famous faces that would’ve remained just that – faces, anonymous beyond the fact that they are, to some people somewhere in the world, known and revered. There was once a time when Swift was a country singer with a great head of curls and armed with a guitar, and the NFL was commonly joked about as an acronym for Not F*cking Likely and Not For Long. Today though, the duo are two unavoidable and insatiable cultural arbiters, history-makers, and trend-setters. Their mere presence anywhere – be it entering or exiting a restaurant, walking to or exiting a car – causes both in-person and virtual pandemonium. But their ubiquity has done the opposite of diluting their respective brands; if anything, it’s bolstered them. When the pair debuted their romance in September 2023, “Are travis kelce and taylor swift dating” became Google’s top worldwide trending search phrase. On Spotify, searches for ‘Travis Kelce’ spiked by 1,300%, with listeners consuming over 100,000 hours' worth of Kelce-related content in the week after the pair debuted their love.
So influential have the pair respectively become that there’s no world in which the two monikers Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce can’t be shoehorned into a conversation and looped like a piece of thread back to popular culture. In the last election, Swift backed President Biden, who won 57% of women voters and two-thirds of women between the ages of 18 and 29. Team Biden is anxiously seeking her support for this year's election too after a poll found that 18% of American voters – some 30 million adults – would be more likely to vote for a candidate Swift endorsed. In September, she posted a message on her Instagram account encouraging her 272 million followers to register to vote. The post led to more than 35,000 registrations on the non-partisan website Vote.org.
Despite recent controversies – Swift recently became the latest casualty in an epidemic of fake, AI-generated pornography after explicit deepfake images of her went viral on X, while allies of Donald Trump are reportedly plotting a ‘holy war’ against her if she sides with the Democrats in November – the Pennsylvania native and her NFL beau’s ability to, ahem, shake it off and embrace their power couple status is no small feat.
‘I see these modern-day fandoms as a replacement for what religion used to fill,’ says Emily Chappell, Digital Lead at marketing company, MØRNING. ‘Celebrities, like Swift and Kelce, become higher figures to love and follow and nothing quite rips through culture like a duo from completely different worlds.’
The blueprint for the sports star-popstar power couple was ostensibly set by baseball player Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe in the Fifties. Then came Posh and Becks in the Nineties and Noughties, before Shakira and Gerard Piqué and Ciara and Russell Wilson cemented the clout of a power couple that bridges two worlds. Then, along came Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.
‘We're living in an ultra-invested celebrity culture which is fed by voyeuristic social media algorithms in real time. We have greater access to our idols that previous eras of fan communities could only have dreamt of,’ says Alex Elder, Creative Strategist at MØRNING. ‘Not only are celebs’ posts or high-profile social media “unfollowings” monitored, but now Kelce liking a photo of Swift on Instagram is in some way newsworthy. This digital proximity can – and has – led to unhealthy parasocial relationships between some followers and their icon of choice.’
Elder points to Swift’s short-lived fling with The 1975’s Matty Healy last year, during which time Swifties penned an open letter urging Swift to rid herself of Healy. It’s hardly surprising that Swifties have approved of her relationship with Kelce – both are stakeholders in what are, on the surface at least, wholesome and all-American spheres: American football and pop music. They are both conventionally attractive, straight and white. This is a power couple that unifies fans across the political, religious and economic spectrum in increasingly splintered and fractured times.
Swift is, according to Chappell, an ‘economy on legs’ – Swifties were reported to have spent on average $93 million (£74 million) per show during her Eras tour in 2023 – and was praised by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell this week for her ability to bring new audiences to the game in which her beau plays. 'Taylor is obviously a dynamo, everything she touches, there are people following. And so, we count ourselves fortunate and we welcome it', he said at the Super Bowl news conference.
There are 11 months left in her Eras tour, which last year became the highest-grossing musical bonanza of all time having banked her $1 billion (£792 million), so any chance of swerving the potential future Mr and Mrs Swift any time soon is unlikely. There are rumours that, post-Super Bowl, an engagement is nigh, which will serve to only fuel the Swift lift. The boost to the British economy provided by Prince Harry's wedding to Meghan Markle in 2018 was estimated to be $1.5 billion (£1.2 billion), while Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton was estimated to have made the UK £2 billion in tourism overall. The Eras tour alone has, to date, contributed just shy of $6 billion to the US economy – and it's not even finished yet. This may well be the beginnings of an American royal family the world has never seen before. Who knows? This is a couple very much in their living-life-entirely-on-their-own-terms Era.
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