Every Taylor Swift release is a marvel of marketing and PR. Whether an indie-folk album surprise-released in the depths of COVID. A short film about a forgotten scarf. Or a tour that’s posted big numbers—projected $1 billion in ticket sales—without losing the tiny, Swiftian touches that make her stadium shows feel intimate. See: the friendship bracelet industry sparked by a single line in one of her songs. Jewelry sales spiked 40% at the craft store Michaels, for instance, thanks to fans creating their own for Swift’s Eras Tour.
Everything Swift creates is carefully designed to be shareable, to sell out, to build hype, to reach peak popularity. But somehow, the Kansas City Chiefs game hullabaloo on September 24 appeared to rocket even Swift to new heights of popularity—at least in terms of Google Trends.
(If you somehow missed it, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce invited Taylor Swift to watch his team play the Chicago Bears. Swift wore Chiefs red and cheered next to Kelce’s mom. All of this, of course, sparked rumors of a possible romance.)
So, what’s going on? We, the humble data nerds at Domo, don’t pretend to know what’s happening in the sparkly lives of celebrities. But we can at least explore what’s happening in the data—and the surprise we found.
Swift surprisingly reached “peak popularity” the week of September 24, 2023, after attending her first Chiefs game.
First, let’s look at Taylor Swift’s popularity on her own. We will measure popularity using interest over time in Google search patterns. The numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for a given region and time.
Our data starts five years ago. Search interest for the term “Taylor Swift” has tended to peak around her albums and tours. See the spike around the week of August 23, 2019, the day she released Lover. There’s another in July of 2020, when Swift surprise-dropped Folklore. On November 12, 2021, she re-released her 2012 album Red, along with a short film and her first SNL appearance in years. We can see interest peak there, too.
Until the Chiefs game, Swift’s highest spike in search interest, our proxy for popularity, was the week of November 13, 2022, when Ticketmaster struggled with the U.S. ticket sale of her Eras Tour.
That drama felt inescapable—until the Chiefs game usurped it. Swift reached peak popularity, a score of 100, when fans spotted her cheering in Kelce’s box. Swift had her highest interest week ever (in our time period), with interest a little more than double even when the Eras Tour was hot.
Enter Travis Kelce—a famous football player made even more famous.
Travis Kelce wasn’t unknown before September 24. He was a third-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and has spent 11 years with the Kansas City Chiefs. However, his search interest compared to Swift makes him look that way. His search interest score rarely rose above 1 through the end of 2022. For comparison, Swift’s score in the same timeframe was consistently over 5, even when she’s not actively promoting her music and brand.
Kelce’s first surge happened around the Super Bowl in February of 2023, when the Chiefs bested the Philadelphia Eagles. A minor media narrative at the time was Kelce playing his brother Jason Kelce, an Eagles center.
Kelce then went back into relative obscurity—at least, “Travis Kelce” wasn’t getting many Google hits. Until the summer of 2023. As he started publicly sharing his interest in Swift, his search interest score rises through September and crescendos on September 24, when Kelce reaches peak popularity—five times the amount of interest he got even when he played in the Super Bowl.
Now, let’s look at Taylor and Travis combined.
In our time frame, Kelce’s interest score has spiked above hers exactly once: the Super Bowl. Otherwise, Swift rules.
There’s still one entity that Swift has yet to outperform—the NFL.
When we include the NFL in our index, at least for search terms, the league is still way bigger than either Swift or Kelce. But hey—we think she’s only getting started.