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  • Manuela El-Bacha

Is Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce's relationship a publicity stunt?

Social media is one of the most powerful tools nowadays. A one-minute video may influence thousands--if not millions--of people's thoughts about a particular topic. It is more than obvious that inside social media, there exist separate worlds: the soccer fans, the video game fans, the pop music fans, the American football fans... They are usually kept separate, but on July 26, 2023, Travis Kelce, a Super Bowl star, discussed attending the Eras Tour on his New Heights podcast; after this moment, two of these social media worlds collided: the Taylor Swift fans and the football fans. With the possibility of a new relationship between the singer and the football player, social media users quickly spread the information, and people started debating if the rumor was true or not. Well, currently we already know about its veracity, but I am here to discuss whether the duo’s relationship is real, or simply a mere publicity stunt.

Those who claim that the relationship between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce is nothing more than a publicity stunt have some pretty strong arguments to sustain their idea. First things first, just because an individual is already very famous does not mean they cannot be or do not desire to be even more well-known. It is not just because one has achieved a certain level of recognition that they cannot go beyond it, especially when there are different fields, different audiences, and different people to get attention from. When combining a strong figure from the American football scene, in which most of the audience is composed of men, with a strong figure from the pop music world, in which women compose most of the fanbase, the amount of marketing and promoting power is absurd. In other words, the romantic relationship unites different audiences, and by that people who would never have considered following Taylor Swift on Instagram, or even hearing music from her, will now be doing so because she is "Travis Kelce's new girlfriend". She wants this new audience so she can expand beyond the world that she already dominates. Additionally, the same also applies to Travis Kelce, who might be in the relationship just to expand his audience to a new social media world — the one of pop music.

Another controversial argument regards the connection between pop culture and American football in the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl, the National Football League's (NFL) annual championship game, is one of the grandest events on television and social media. In 2023, the game of the Kansas City Chiefs ( Travis’ team) against the Philadelphia Eagles was watched by over 115 million spectators. In the middle of the event, there is a short show from any popular artist at that time, and this show is a career achievement for any musician. Better known as the Halftime Show, the presentation provides entertainment that serves as an essential connection to pop culture, expanding the television audience and generating excitement across the country. Taylor has never participated in the Half-Time Show and that would certainly be a goal of hers. Many people argue that Travis Kelce would be a good way for her to achieve this, and a possible show would also benefit the NFL by bringing her fans (another audience) to watch the event.

There are speculations that Taylor Swift has already been in a fake relationship in the past, but that is nothing more than a conspiracy of the public. Others also say that Taylor has never been that open about a relationship, and now she is going beyond the average exposure of a relationship between a famous duo by showing up to lots of games wearing a Kansas City Chiefs shirt and chatting with friends and even Kelce's relatives, including his mother. Additionally, the NFL is not losing the opportunity of having Taylor Swift as their product, and the transmission constantly points their cameras to Taylor cheering during the games, something that even Travis himself admitted to thinking is going a little bit too far. Videos on Tiktok have also created polemic complaints that those who are watching the game just want to watch football and don't care about which pop culture singer is at the stadium (even if she is a player's girlfriend), showing how part of the audience just wants to actually enjoy the match and would rather that the cameras stick with the players. Finally, many non-Taylor Swift fans say that one of the reasons why people find it hard to accept the fact that the relationship may be fake is because they see the musician as a goddess and not as a real person. Yes, she may be lying to us all, but it is not because Taylor Swift did or said something that it is the complete truth.

Now the faithful fans, those who believe that the relationship is real, constantly remind people that the singer is not a character, and is in fact a normal person with a real life that goes beyond her career. Both perspectives agree on the terms that the relationship is mutually beneficial in various fields, but they have different perspectives on whether or not it is a publicity stunt. Additionally, another argument used by faithful fans is that there are many relationships between social media influencers that are genuinely true.

Another thing that defenders of the relationship argue is that fame is not the only interest, but they also need people to consume their content, and that does not quite happen. Okay, maybe Travis and Taylor will gain a few followers because of the new relationship, but they argue that the amount will probably not be that significant as there likely aren’t that many people that care about Travis but not at all for Taylor, and will only follow the singer because of their relationship (remember, all of this also works the other way around). Even if she gets a few followers, as soon as the relationship ends they will simply unfollow her, and just following Taylor does not mean that Kelce fans will start listening to her music--even if they do, the number will be very low and barely impact the famous singer, and they won’t be profitable enough to justify her orchestrating a fake relationship.

People also comment on how Taylor Swift is among the world's most well-known performers and she could thus date any of the world's most well-known athletes, but she is dating Travis Kelve, who isn’t even that famous (in their perspectives). Although understandable, I believe that this specific argument comes from people who are not familiar with American football; admirers of the sport know that Travis Kelce is very well-known as a two-time Super Bowl champion--and, in the end of his career, an obvious first-ballot choice for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as he is one of the best tight ends to ever play the game.

After analyzing and finding out more about the relationship, I believe that it is not a stunt. Personally, I am far from being a huge fan of Taylor Swift and even farther from being a fan of Travis Kelce —I barely know anything about their personal lives. Nevertheless, I stand for the idea that neither of them are characters or that their life is centered around their fame. Both have spectacular careers inside their worlds and I believe that the relationship brings media attention, but only to a certain level, since one day all this marketing and influence that social media is providing for them right now will end. Honestly, I don't see why Taylor would want a bunch of football fans following her as they are not consuming her products, hearing her music, or interested in her content. The same goes for Travis since I don't see why he would want a bunch of fans of Taylor Swift, who don't care at all about sports, following him, especially when that starts to negativity affect his own fans (as they are complaining about NFL giving too much space for Taylor and thus taking their cameras out of the field). I think that yes, a stunt relationship exists, and yes, both Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce could be a part of one, but I can hardly see this current relationship as a publicity stunt.

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