Taylor Swift at Super Bowl 58: How did pop star’s attendance influence the NFL’s big game?

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Taylor Swift flew 12 hours by private jet from Tokyo to ensure she made it to Las Vegas on time for the Super Bowl

By Joe Bradshaw
BBC Sport

A glamorous romance. A global race against time. A glorious result.

Taylor Swift’s attendance at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Sunday was always going to hog the headlines.

The world’s biggest pop star flew back from her ‘Eras’ tour in Tokyo on Saturday to watch boyfriend and Kansas City star Travis Kelce in the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers.

And in overtime the Chiefs duly won a dogfight in the desert with Swift’s every reaction gobbled up by a hungry press pack.

As Kelce was interviewed with the Lombardi trophy at the end, Swift stood back, allowing him to take the limelight before sharing an embrace – a moment that would be captured around the world.

Ever since whispers of their relationship emerged in September, a whole new legion of fans has tuned in to American football.

For some, it has been the perfect way to introduce an avalanche of newcomers to the National Football League.

For others, it has been a sideshow that has only detracted from the real stories on the football field.

Her appearance at a memorable Super Bowl 58 will have done little to shift either position.

Super Bowl 2024: Watch Travis Kelce and his Kansas City team-mates celebrate win

It’s a love story

The world’s biggest pop star and one of sport’s best players. Think David and Victoria Beckham, only with a huge dash of American glitz piled on top.

Throughout the autumn, Swift was a regular at Kansas City games, a paparazzi’s dream as she stood alongside Kelce’s mother and Brittany Mahomes, wife of the Chiefs’ transcendent quarterback Patrick.

In December, fresh from being named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, Swift confirmed she and Kelce were a couple and explained how their relationship had smoothed her way into following football.

Two worlds had officially collided.

Super Bowl 58: Travis Kelce says ‘it’s fun to gather the Swifties in the Chiefs Kingdom’

The Swift effect has swelled the sport’s TV audience, especially among young women, reportedly boosting the brand value of the NFL and the Chiefs by $331m (£260m). Sales of Kelce’s Chiefs replica jersey exploded, seeing a 400% spike after she first attended one of his games.

Kelce seems pleased with the extra attention, saying before the Super Bowl: “It’s been fun to gather the Swifties into Chiefs Kingdom and open them up to the football world.”

The narrative around the Super Bowl was clear. Could Swift make it back from Japan in time? And just how many people would be tracking her movements? Reports even emerged earlier in the week of Swift’s lawyers sending a letter to a university student who posts information about the whereabouts of private planes.

As it was, given Japan is 17 hours behind the Pacific Time Zone, she was able to navigate the 12-hour flight back to the US with plenty of time to spare.

A turn-on or turn-off?

Travis Kelce only had one reception for one yard in the first half before finding his feet in the final stages of the Super Bowl

The media jamboree surrounding the couple has not impressed everyone.

In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell felt compelled to dismiss conspiracy theories around Swift as “nonsense” after right-wing critics claimed the relationship was part of a plot to rig the championship and help get US President Joe Biden re-elected.

For some purists, the chatter around Swift’s appearance is only a distraction. In their mind, every TV cutaway, photograph or mention of Swift’s name diverts praise from Mahomes, the NFL’s offensive player of the year Christian McCaffrey and the rest of the stars on the field.

As tennis legend Andy Murray put it in a tweet afterwards, “Congrats to @taylorswift13 on winning Super Bowl 58 👏 a stunning performance.”

Ever the performer, Swift played up to the cameras in Vegas. Midway through the first half, she was featured on the big screen inside the stadium and promptly knocked back her drink, albeit to a mixed reaction from a crowd dominated by 49ers’ fans.

Indeed, in a game initially dominated by defences, it seemed the most notable on-pitch event for her boyfriend would be when he barged into his head coach Andy Reid after he was ignored on a play call and the ball was turned over.

The whirlwind romance has brought an additional subplot to this NFL season

That was until the fourth quarter when Kelce finally came alive, linking up with Mahomes seven times to help drag his team back into the match and force overtime, which ultimately swung the way of the Chiefs.

Cue mayhem in the players’ box, Swift included.

Anyone who was hoping for a Kelce-Swift marriage proposal in the shadow of the Super Bowl trophy was left disappointed. That can wait.

For the new influx of fans, a seesaw match that could have gone either way was a great advert for American football on the field – and a precious opportunity taken to keep hold of them for next season.

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