After American football team the Kansas City Chiefs knocked out the Baltimore Ravens 17-10 to reach the Super Bowl, Alessandra Madrid began shopping for an outfit. Not that Madrid is a fan of the Chiefs, or the San Francisco 49ers, who they face on Sunday. The 32-year-old didn’t check out the official NFL gear for her upcoming Super Bowl shindig. Instead, she went on the hunt for clothes inspired by her favourite artist: Taylor Swift. Ever since Swift began dating the Chiefs’ star tight end Travis Kelce, Swifties have been showing up for the team.
Madrid visited TikTok and Etsy and, after swiping past “Swiftie Super Bowl” and “In My Super Bowl Era” merchandise, she opted for a $46 (£36) red sweatshirt with “Swiftie” stretched across the front and Kelce’s name and jersey number, 87, on the back. “I wanted something a little bit more long-lasting, just in case they don’t win,” Madrid confesses.
The sweatshirt is one of thousands of Swift-inspired Super Bowl items available ahead of this Sunday’s big game. With Swifties like Madrid supporting their idol and the Chiefs, many independent merchants have capitalised on the fandom’s interest in the game.
One such entrepreneur is Hayley Williams, an Atlanta-based lawyer, who began selling clothing on Etsy as a side hustle. After a colleague suggested hawking merchandise for football-crazed Swifites, Williams initially resisted. “At first I thought: that sounds too niche to possibly be successful … I was very wrong.” Since the Chiefs reached the Super Bowl two weekends ago, she says she has sold eighteen “Go Taylor’s Boyfriend” sweatshirts at $35 each.
While the world has seen plenty of celebrity-athlete couples, Swift is in an entirely different stratosphere of fame (her music is streamed in America more than the entire genres of jazz and classical). Many Swifties obsess over her life’s smallest details – such as whether she fixed a chipped tooth – and her relationship with Kelce is catnip for devotees.
“There’s definitely a parasocial aspect to their relationship because they are heavily invested in Taylor’s romantic life,” Lorynn Divita, an associate professor of apparel design and merchandising at Baylor University, says of the megastar’s fans. “There’s no element too small for them to chronicle.”
Over the years, Taylormania has allowed merchants to peddle apparel nodding to the superstar’s life and music. When the 14-time Grammy winner split from actor Joe Alwyn, shirts went on sale that read “Who’s Joe Alwyn Anyway? Ew.,” a reference to a lyric from her song 22.
During the first leg of Swift’s ongoing Eras Tour, many concertgoers wore outfits inspired by the singer, including New York University graduation gowns in honour of the commencement address she gave at the school in 2022. As Kelce replaces Alwyn and Swifties look for new ways to show their allegiance, Etsy and TikTok Shop sellers can react rapidly to to such a cultural moment, in ways traditional manufacturers can’t. “There is no way that they could have anticipated and created merchandise to accommodate this new fan,” Divita says.
But some aren’t as enchanted by the singer’s new lover. A few prominent far-right conservatives have lashed out at Traylor, touting conspiracy theories about the authenticity of the relationship. Others have criticised television networks’ NFL coverage, claiming they’re showing more Swift than football (Swift appeared on television for less than a minute of the AFC championship game).
Bradley Thomas, a content creator for NBC Sports, says Swift’s association with the NFL is beneficial for the league because she has introduced the sport to new fans. “While my wife is married to an absolute sports maniac, she didn’t have the kind of connection with the NFL that I do,” he says. “Now she’s bringing up things about the Kansas City Chiefs that I didn’t even know.”
At his wife’s suggestion, Thomas, who also operates an Etsy store, designed his own spin on the Eras Tour official merchandise, selling a T-shirt that reads, “The Football Era” with a picture of Kelce in a bow and arrow pose and a collage of Swift at different Chiefs games. He also offers shirts that say “Kansas City Swiftie.”
The Super Bowl has always been a popular merchandising event, with the NFL moving hundreds of millions of dollars worth of goods tied to the game. Thomas’s merchandise, like other unofficial gear, exists in a legal gray zone: copyright holders could ask Etsy to take down listings if they infringe upon intellectual property or trademarks. So far, the NFL and Swift have tolerated it.
The popularity of Super Bowl clothing tied to Taylor underscores the buying power of long-neglected female sports fans, according to Divita. “Smart teams will hopefully now learn not to overlook that female demographic, because this shows they were just waiting for someone to open the gates for them,” she says.
Next season, the league could introduce more Kelce garb to meet fan demand. But if the couple breaks up, independent merchants could rework their Alwyn designs to read “Who’s Travis Kelce Anyway? Ew.”