Taylor Swift might be in her NFL WAGs (wives and girlfriends) era after attending a Kansas City Chiefs game on Sunday to cheer on her rumored boyfriend, Travis Kelce — and the internet can't get enough of it.
The singer's appearance at Arrowhead Stadium not only brought smiles to the NFL tight end, his teammate Patrick Mahomes and fans of both the football team and the singer, it also brought a significant follower increase to Kelce's Instagram as well as a 400% spike in his jersey sales.
At this point, it's no secret that Swift's biggest fans (endearingly referred to as Swifties) are invested in the 33-year-old's love life. But is it surprising that sports fans and media outlets are jumping on the bandwagon?
"People were posting that this was their Independence Day," Maria Avgitidis, known as Matchmaker Maria on social media and CEO of Agape Match, tells Yahoo Life. "This makes sense to me because [Swift] is Americana and [football] is our ritual."
Swift's love stories, as told in her songs
On Swift's second studio album, Fearless, she revealed to listeners that she'd go on to do things "greater than dating the boy on the football team." But that didn't keep people from showing interest in who she was linked with throughout her rise to fame.
In fact, it was lyrics like those that have kept fans interested.
"She writes about her love life in a really vulnerable and deep way, which is really relatable to her fans and keeps us dying to know who each song is about," Laura Conn, a self-proclaimed Swiftie, tells Yahoo Life.
Swift confirmed this herself as early as 2008, when Ellen DeGeneres suggested that "all of the songs on [Fearless] are about boys and love," to which the singer agreed. She even pointed to one that was added to the track list after her breakup with singer Joe Jonas.
Since then, the pop star has included references to romances with Jake Gyllenhaal, John Mayer, Harry Styles and Joe Alwyn in various hits.
Conn describes Swift's music as "autobiographical" in this way. Psychologist Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center in Newport Beach, Calif., says the music is just a piece of how Swift has cultivated an intimate relationship with fans.
"Swift has done a masterful job of using all media to create a sense of intimacy and vulnerability. Her music reflects her life experiences, and she owns her emotions. She also uses social media to extend her relationship with fans, making them feel privy to her 'offstage' self," Rutledge tells Yahoo Life. "Her ability to achieve authenticity and emotional connection combined with frequent communication amplify opportunities for parasocial connection. Even though one-sided, the fact that she continually acknowledges fans further enhances the sense of knowing and attachment."
Hosting album-listening parties in her home and performing a fan's choreography during her Eras Tour are examples of that acknowledgement. Swift is also known for providing Easter eggs throughout her work that turn her fans into investigators and make them feel like the singer's confidantes.
"She’s constantly dropping hints and telling stories in the things she does," says Conn. Swift's love life is no exception to that.
The pop star's unique relationship with her fans — coupled with the fact that she has managed to maintain a semblance of privacy over the years — fuels everyone's interest, says Elizabeth Scala, aka the Swiftie prof, an English professor who teaches a course called "The Taylor Swift Songbook" at the University of Texas at Austin.
"The interest in her love life is indeed a part of this phenomenon, which I think other celebs experience but not to the same extent," Scala tells Yahoo Life. "I think Swift had much too much attention on her dating life when she was younger, and her fans are still fiercely protective. Many pop stars are overly scrutinized and followed by the paparazzi. Not all of them begin as young as 16. Now that Swift is 33, I’d note that she is the one who is fiercely protective of her own privacy to the extent that she can be."
Still, she seems to be making some sort of exception with Kelce, adding to the excitement.
The 'Taylor Swift effect' on the NFL
The way that Swifties have invested in the happenings of Swift's life is comparable to the interest that football fans show in their favorite teams and players, which might explain the buzz surrounding Sunday afternoon's game, according to Avgitidis.
"What we saw was the confluence of two subcultures, and both subcultures are fandoms," she explains. "Our culture's rituals include sports, like the NFL, where people come together to tailgate and cheer on their team. ... Similarly, Taylor Swift is someone with a fan base who also have their own rituals."
Marisa Joachim, another Swift superfan, explains to Yahoo Life that Kelce has been engaging in Swift's rituals, sharing that he had made a friendship bracelet with his phone number on it in an attempt to get Swift's attention at the Eras Tour in Kansas City. The tight end was then seen sporting a denim outfit named the "1989 Bedroom Painting Set" for Sunday's postgame hangout with Swift since the singer has been promoting her upcoming rerecording of the fan-favorite album, 1989.
"Beyond his NFL expertise, Kelce also has a wholesome persona, which would make him appealing to fans as a fit for Swift," says Rutledge.
Swift did her part by cheering Kelce on at the game alongside his mother, Donna Kelce. "She almost feels closer to us, rooting for this team and her man in the same way we would," says Conn, adding flippantly, "It's given girlies a reason to get involved in Sunday football."
It draws similarities to the excitement that previously surrounded Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson, as well as Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen. Swift, however, stands on her own when it comes to her success, her loyal fans and her dedication to telling a good love story — with one seemingly playing out in front of our eyes.
"We are invested in Taylor’s love life because that’s what she writes about, that’s how she’s trained us," says Avgitidis.
Joachim maintains that Swift's fans, like herself, just want to see the singer happy. "We cheer her on in all ways of life. She is searching for love, and her fans support her through and through."