The Economy of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce
Where Taylor Swift goes, brands follow.
Everything the pop superstar touches gets monetized: her favorite restaurants, her clothes, and even her boyfriends can expect at least a weeklong news cycle, if not fame in their own right.
So when Swift was seen in the stands at the Kansas City Chiefs game watching her rumored boyfriend — NFL tight end Travis Kelce — play on Sept. 24, the brands reacted as if two stars had collided. Companies and independent vendors alike have since filled their shelves with Swift/Kelce merch, and making big bucks off the (allegedly) budding relationship.
Swifties and non-Swifties have never joined forces to root for one of Swift’s boyfriends like this before. Her last serious relationship, with actor Joe Alwyn, stayed relatively private for the entirety of their six-year relationship, which ended in April. Rumors about a Kelce-Swift relationship began swirling over the summer when Kelce attended the Eras Tour, and later revealed on a podcast that he’d hoped to give Swift a friendship bracelet with his number on it.
The dating rumors were seemingly confirmed in September, when Swift started showing up to Chiefs games to root for the tight end: once alongside Kelce’s mom in a VIP booth, and another next to a long line of A-listers, like Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman.
Swift’s fans went wild. This new relationship wasn’t just public-facing, it was a weekly spectacle — fans would potentially get to see Swift every Sunday during Chiefs games, and better yet, gossip about the status of her relationship based on Kelce’s performance on the field.
All of a sudden, millions of Swifties were turning their attention toward the NFL, and Kelce, for the first time. The Swift-Kelce relationship was its own new economy, and brands big and small took notice.
Heinz was one of the first corporations to release a novelty product in tandem with the relationship, and it all started with a meme. A Swift fan account on X, formerly Twitter, went viral for posting a photo of Swift standing next to a plate of chicken strips, which featured a dollop of white sauce that the account described as “seemingly ranch.” Swift fans and foes alike dragged the account, and Heinz piled on by releasing a new sauce called Ketchup and Seemingly Ranch. The company gave away 100 bottles of the condiment to fans.
Primal Kitchen, a condiment line, released its own version of the “Seemingly Ranch” joke: A bottle of ranch sauce for $8.89 — perhaps a reference to Swift’s “1989” album — complete with two friendship bracelets, which sold out immediately. The website reads:
Crafted with real ingredients and the essence of a thousand sauce memes, this delicious dressing is your new condiment anti-hero. Get it while it lasts—we expect Seemingly Ranch to go platinum in no time!
In mid-October, Dick’s Sporting Goods released a T-shirt in the Chief’s red and yellow colors emblazoned with “Karma Is My Tight End,” a reference to the Swift lyrics “Karma is my boyfriend.” Whether “tight end” is a reference to Kelce is in the eye of the beholder.
Dozens of independent Etsy sellers are also profiting off the relationship with their own tees, bracelets and sweatshirts. One Nashville-based seller, Coastal Louise Company, features at least nine new products aimed at the couple, including a T-shirt with a paparazzi shot of Swift and Kelce driving off into the sunset in a vintage convertible. Below the photo are the words “GETAWAY CAR,” referencing a Swift song.
“Bought for my daughter. She loves it,” reads one five-star review of the shirt.
🚨| Taylor Swift was eating a piece of chicken with ketchup and seemingly ranch! pic.twitter.com/rpAOP2HFtT
— The Eras Tour (@tswifterastour) September 24, 2023
Kelce’s fandom also appears to be eating up the relationship. The NFL said it saw a 400% spike in Kelce jersey sales after Swift attended the game in September.
Kelce has leaned into his newfound pop fame by reportedly trademarking a few phrases, including his nickname and Instagram handle KILLATRAV. The trademarks, according to filings, will be emblazoned on pins, posters, bobbleheads, clothing and more.
Ian Charms, a handmade jewelry line based in Los Angeles, released a necklace for $175 with Swift and Kelce’s photos attached.
Lisa Sahakian, creator of Ian Charms, told HuffPost that she designed the necklace and put it on her site the day after the pair was first seen together. She initially made only 10, and they sold out immediately.
She said she may sell more, but wasn’t holding her breath for a long Kelce-Swift relationship.
“I think this is the first time that she’s openly been super public with someone and she wants this to be a thing,” Sahakian said. “She’s like, wearing a Chiefs outfit with red lipstick and leaving with him with no security. It very much feels like this fun, performative relationship.”
Ian Charms’ designs are for pop culture-obsessed fans, but this is the first time Sahakian has made a necklace about one of Swift’s relationships.
“Usually when I do a pop culture necklace, it’s a time capsule of that moment. This is such an important moment in pop culture because there’s such crazy things happening with the economy and even the NFL because of her. It’s important to address it and notice it.”
Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce have dinner at Waverly Inn on Oct. 15 in New York City.
Swift’s relationship with Kelce appears to be a bigger spectacle than any other of her previous romantic relationships, This one is unique in a variety of ways: Kelce the first American she’s publicly dated in over a decade. And unlike with actor Alwyn, Swift’s last serious relationship, Kelce is a megastar in his own right. And that megastar is openly gushing about Swift, whether it’s fawning over her on his podcast or singing along to her songs in a club.
Brittany Spanos, a Rolling Stone reporter and a professor of a Taylor Swift course at NYU, told HuffPost that Swift and Kelce’s relationship feels like a “welcome reprieve” to the Swifties.
“Coming off of both a breakup that may have potentially been, you know, very devastating for her and Joe, and then having a dirtbag boyfriend leading into this, like very, nice kind of all-American guy who is very lovable and goofy and doesn’t seem to have any big controversies that anyone knows of, I think that is sort of a welcome reprieve. It is sort of public and so the fans feel very invited into the spectacle.”
Swift’s last rumored romantic relationship was with singer Matty Healy, which was only a brief stint compared to her yearslong relationship with Alwyn. Swifties did not overwhelmingly support Healy and Swift’s pairing like they do her and Kelce — due in part to Healy’s history of controversial statements, including past comments about rapper Ice Spice, whom Swift collaborated with this summer.
No one knows how long Swift and Kelce’s relationship will last, but Sahakian describes it as an “important moment in pop culture,” considering how it has altered the economy and even the NFL.
“She looks like she’s having fun, which is awesome,” she said. “I just think that her fans are in it for the ride, and who’s a bigger Taylor Swift hater than people that watch the NFL? If you can have the NFL change their photo to Taylor Swift, like, what world do we live in? It sounds fake. It’s so bizarre.”
Sarah Chamberlain, co-founder of 3 Wishes, told HuffPost in an email that the online costume store sold out 300 of its Travis Kelce costume and 500 of one of its Swift costumes. Although the two costumes are sold separately, 3 Wishes put them together on its site — the first time they’ve done that with Swift and one of her boyfriends.
“With the popularity of the Eras Tour and recent movie release, and the Kansas City Chiefs winning the Super Bowl, they both would have been popular costumes this year — the fact that they’re a couple makes it a no-brainer,” Chamberlain told HuffPost.