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What Brands are Scoring from Travis Kelce’s Swift Rise in Popularity?

November 2023

This is a self-funded case study using our ad testing solution.

Even if you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, there’s every chance you’ve still heard that Taylor Swift has herself a new squeeze. And that man is none other than 2-time Super Bowl winning football superstar, Travis Kelce. It’s fair to say it’s got advertisers across the U.S. going gaga.

But before you think we’re getting all Buzzfeed about the latest celebrity gossip, it would be remiss of us not to delve into the impact of popular culture on advertising — particularly given the ultimate aim of the game is to build branded memories and be top-of-mind when it matters most.

Whether through instant brand recognition, leveraging personality traits to enhance brand values, or simply adding a level of credibility to the message, the role of celebrities in creating effective advertising is multi-faceted — impacting all of the 3Cs required for long-term success. However, strong characters can also be a destructive force. Used incorrectly and they can take the spotlight away from the brand and message.

In much the same way Patrick Mahomes is locked into one player and one player only when facing a critical third and long, brands from all categories are jumping over themselves to get a piece of the Kelce pie. In fact, over the first 9 weeks of the NFL season Travis Kelce has starred in ads for no less than 6 brands. Curious to know which campaign most effectively hooked up with the man of the moment? And, by the same token, those that shouldn’t ever get back in bed together with him again? Keep reading! 👇

#1 Campbell’s Chunky: Arm Wrestle

Cubery Rating: 73

From Super Bowls to Soup Bowls, Travis Kelce’s appearance with his almost equally talented football brother (and increasingly famous mother) gave Campbell’s Chunky a lovable, family-orientated story that seamlessly fitted within the brand’s wheelhouse. The key message of a hearty meal packed with protein — brought to life through an intense arm wrestle in the kitchen — aligned perfectly with existing associations of the power-athlete brothers, exuding strength and masculinity. Just as the ad was the top performer amongst all Americans, Swifties and football fans were also in harmony, with the fun story equally effective across both groups.

#2 State Farm: Mahomes and MaAuto

Cubery Rating: 66

In a spot which also featured Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, State Farm demonstrated how they’ve become experts in keeping the brand central to advertising which is otherwise bursting with celebrity power. Ever in sync on the football field, it turns out the connection between Mahomes and Kelce is just as powerful off the field. The link between Mahomes’ name and State Farm’s product offerings laddered up a highly amusing ad. With State Farm one of the heaviest advertisers during the football season, an ad featuring recognizable NFL players didn’t stray too far from what people have come to expect from the brand. This was also true for football and Taylor Swift fans alike, with both groups finding the approach highly synergistic with the insurer.

#3 DirecTV: Overly Direct Spokesperson

Cubery Rating: 63

Unlike Campbell’s and State Farm, Travis Kelce was the sole star of the show in DirecTV’s “Overly Direct Spokesperson”. The ad saw the future hall of fame tight-end unashamedly roasting football fans in a range of situations, with the ultimate aim to highlight the ease of streaming games on DirecTV. With quick jump-cuts between scenes and a pulsing percussive soundtrack, the ad brought to life these scenarios in a fun and lighthearted way, benchmarking as one of the most attention-grabbing ads of the bunch. While it struggled to strongly convince the general population that DirecTV is still the ‘go-to’ place for watching NFL, using Kelce as the central figure resulted in both football and Swift fans alike being more favorable to the ad and message than the wider population.

#4 Experian: Stats

Cubery Rating: 62

By flipping roles and turning the celebrity into the fan, Experian created a reasonably well-liked (if somewhat passively received) narrative that ensured the brand was central to the story. While the script wouldn’t have had people lining up at the box office, the ad landed its message effectively — highlighting the brand’s advantages in a clear, simple, and lighthearted way. Kelce’s role-reversal helped rub-off onto the Experian brand, leading to it being seen as different to other category competitors (particularly amongst those favorable to Taylor Swift).

#5 Pfizer: Two Things at Once

Cubery Rating: 62

Although injured Jets’ quarterback (and polarizing figure) Aaron Rodgers has made his thoughts on Kelce’s partnership with Pfizer loud and clear, did the wider population share this same view? As we know well, one person’s opinion (no matter how prominent) doesn’t necessarily reflect the sentiment of the wider nation. The ad aimed to demonstrate the ease of getting a COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time by depicting a multitude of whimsical scenarios featuring Kelce multi-tasking. While highly attention-grabbing and enjoyed by some, others struggled to connect with the message (or understand why a celebrity of Kelce’s standing was being used to promote it). However, amongst Taylor Swift fans the ad saw the biggest uplift in performance compared to football followers.

#6 Bud Light: Backyard Grunts

Cubery Rating: 57

With Bud Light continuing to claw their way back from the Dylan Mulvaney saga, the brand turned to the nation’s number #1 sport in an effort to regain goodwill amongst beer drinkers. The ad used a number of NFL players (including Kelce, albeit in a more recessive role compared to the other ads) to bring to life the relatable scenario of kicking back with a cold one, with the goal to remind people of Bud Light’s relaxed and easygoing personality. While the impact of a turbulent year is still causing friction for some, the ad was nonetheless effective in hero-ing the brand amongst a host of recognizable stars, resulting in considerably stronger appeal amongst football fans. While Swifties weren’t seemingly as clued-in to the specific athletes involved, they were nonetheless enthusiastic to the execution overall.

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