"I knew that it would definitely create a stir, but I don't think any of us realize just the extent of how far and wide this would go," Ian Trombetta, the NFL's SVP of Social, Influencer & Content Marketing, told CBS Sports this week. "Another thing that's been a little surprising is that it really hasn't slowed down. It's continued to build in this momentum of conversation."
"It's been honestly unlike anything we've seen from a regular season perspective in the sense that we have celebrities and influencers and big creators that are at games every single week," Trombetta says. "And while it drives interest and discussion online, this was something we've never seen before."
And while the NFL and television networks and even CBS News Twitter account have glommed on to the could-be relationship, one group that hasn't… the Kansas City Chiefs.
Last week the Chiefs reposted a video of Swift in the suite before the game on X (formerly Twitter). After the game they posted a winning graphic with the caption "Rocked the Stage," a wink and nod to a previous Kelce comment directed to Swift.
As a source with the Chiefs told CBS Sports, the organization wants to keep the focus on football. Kelce is one of 53, and the last thing the defending Super Bowl champs want to do is appear like they are exploiting Kelce's 'ship for the gain of their social media numbers.
Despite that, the Chiefs' followers still grew by more than 200,000. And Kelce's follower count, according to the NFL.
And while the NFL and its channels are respecting the privacy of the two, they also aren't letting the moment pass them by.
"It's also having fun. So I think that that's what's so cool about Travis is that his personality really leans into having fun," Trombetta says. "He really embodies so much of what's great about the NFL. He's a great player. He performs on the field. He's won at a high level. And he's got this amazing brand that he's been building off the field as well.
"So I think there's a balance here, right? Perspective. The NFL obviously has a much bigger microphone just given the fact that just the size of our channels. So I think that that allows us to be a bit broader and not getting into a situation where, you know, we're continuing to only focus on Travis Kelce and Taylor."
A huge plus for the league has been getting more eyeballs on their product. By Friday morning, the NFL had posted about Swift 34 times across all their social channels. That generated 170 million impressions with a watch-time of more than 23 years. Years, I said!
Last week's game between the Bears and Chiefs saw a 63% jump in viewership among women age 18 to 49. I asked Trombetta if having Swift being a part of the NFL conversation has been a godsend to a league that's always wanted to add more young female viewers.
"Oh, I don't know if it's a godsend necessarily. The reality is that we have a very vibrant and healthy female fan base," Trombetta says. "It's almost 50% of our fan base, slightly under. And there are amazing things happening with women in and around our game, whether it's on the coaching staffs now, we're really leaning into football at all levels, whether that be at the professional level or all the way down to the youth level in addition to tackle.
"So the storytelling and the work that we've been doing against this demo is not necessarily new. What is new is just the rapid speed and sort of the landslide effect that Taylor Swift has had. And obviously she's at a level of celebrity that I don't think we've seen in the last 20 or 30 years. I mean, probably, you'd be really hard pressed to find someone that's at this level of not only celebrity, but just the passion her fans have for Swifties."
The league does want to be careful to not overdo it. There was a report Friday that YouTube's Sunday Ticket would hand out friendship bracelets at Sunday night's game between the Chiefs and the Jets. I'm told that never had a real chance of happening for a number of reasons.
There's plenty else happening in the league daily, and certainly on Sundays.
"We don't want to get to a place where we're turning off our most avid fans and we certainly want to be sensitive to the platform selection as well.
"And you don't want to enter a place where we're over commercializing it or somehow intruding on their privacy. And what that looks like for us is that we're not going to be stationed outside of Taylor's house trying to get photos and things like that."
The passion for Swift is undeniable. User-generated content across all social channels have taken over the conversation. (By the way, Swift did not exit the suite in a popcorn machine, I'm told.)
If and when she's spotted at MetLife Sunday, it's sure to continue one of the biggest off-field storylines the league has seen in some time.
"It's really authentic," Trombetta says. "You can tell the Swift fans they really care about her. And it's amazing. And I would say the same thing for our fans. They really, really care deeply about the game and about the players. You combine those two things together, it results in this explosion of coverage and excitement and speculation. So we'll see where this goes."