Full exposure: how to influence fandom like Travis Kelce
With (currently) two Super Bowls under his belt, a global superstar with the ability to influence national economies for a girlfriend, and a place in modern culture firmly cemented, Travis Kelce is riding high. Jane Chandler, PR Vice President at Barkley, says we can learn a thing or two about influence from American football's man of the moment.
From a wildly successful podcast to a widely applauded SNL appearance and starring in nearly every commercial break, Killa Trav is killin’ it.
And all this started well before the magic of back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and dating the globally beloved superstar-meets-business woman, Taylor Swift.
Like any influencer program, Travis Kelce's success didn't happen overnight. It's a strategic melding of art and science: connecting the right influencer with your brand during the right cultural moment.
Like any influencer program, Travis Kelce's success didn't happen overnight.
As 2023’s most fascinating influencer, Kelce's journey serves as the quintessential blueprint, offering lessons for brands and marketers navigating the intricate landscape of influencer marketing...
Above: Travis Kelce hosted Saturday Night Live last year.
Lesson #1: Discover - and convert - new audiences
Kelce's 2023 was nothing short of stellar, reaping the benefits of several year's worth of thoughtful, strategic exposure. That exposure has been purposeful to expand and engage a new fan base off the football field with opportunities like SNL and New Heights.
By investing time to engage an audience beyond the obvious 'Brads and Chads' watching Sunday Night Football, Kelce is now beloved by an exponentially larger (and still growing) fan base, with the hope this produces larger, more lucrative opportunities in the long run. And it’s working: America has fallen in love with Travis Kelce.
Challenge yourself on how you target your brand. Are you limiting your growth to 'Brads and Chads'? Or are you finding ways to connect your brand to a new audience and finding new opportunities you haven’t yet imagined?
Above: Travis Kelce and his girlfriend, Taylor Swift.
Lesson #2: Authenticity over perfection
Kelce's brand blends on-field intensity and off-field relatability, appealing to a broad audience beyond football enthusiasts. Strategic business and appearance moves, combined with the charisma of Taylor Swift and the entire Kelce family, have propelled him to a realm of fame akin to cultural icons like the Kardashians.
Kelce's journey underscores the power of visibility driving further opportunities. Positive exposure attracts attention from various stakeholders, creating a virtuous cycle of increased visibility and engagement. Now, add the magic of dating Taylor Swift, and you have a never-ending train of positive attention.
Brands seeking to emulate Kelce's success should prioritise authenticity.
The other side of that train, though, is a big risk: cyclical negative exposure could lead to lost opportunities, indifference from consumers or a dreaded social media cancellation. To date, Kelce's authenticity (and maybe some child-rearing credit to his mother, Donna) has allowed him the ability to steer clear of PR crises. His reputation isn’t angelic, and that's exactly what makes him so endearing. His authenticity reinforces a positive sentiment and amplifies his connection with audiences which, in turn, renders him an ideal choice for brands or media looking to make a deal.
When you consider your next brand representative, the perfect fit doesn’t mean perfectly curated media coverage or social feed. It’s about distributing your messaging by connecting your brand to what your audience already loves. Brands seeking to emulate Kelce's success should prioritise authenticity in their influencer marketing endeavours and keep their eyes peeled for emerging trends that will dominate headlines and comment sections.
And maybe that’s a goofy tight end who drinks beer during Super Bowl parades and adorably tweeted about that one time he saw a “squirle”.
Above: Travis Kelce [right] with his brother, Jason and their mother, Donna.
Lesson #3: Add qualitative vetting to your influencer audit
Worse than a PR scandal, heightened exposure can result in over-saturation and increased scrutiny, leading to indifference or crisis. Kelce's team must carefully navigate these risks as they shape both his personal brand and the new, growing Kelce-Swift brand.
While Kelce isn't responsible for intense media scrutiny, he possesses the agency to strategically leverage his offseason to generate fresh interest and demand for exposure. That could include anything from a new business venture to a date night out with Swift.
Kelce's team must carefully navigate these risks as they shape both his personal brand and the new, growing Kelce-Swift brand.
It may be easy to think Swift catapulted the Kelce family into fame, but their rise started well before Swift’s Eras Tour appearance at Arrowhead. Starting with Super Bowl LVII’s 'Kelce Bowl' spotlight [when Travis faced his brother Jason as the former's Kansas City Chiefs faced the latter's Philadelphia Eagles], the Kelce family embraced every opportunity with genuine appreciation and humility.
The best example of this forward-looking approach is Kelce’s New Heights podcast. There is no shortage of sports shows in the podcast landscape, but New Heights transcends your average sports show, in large part because the Kelce brothers' preference for light-hearted banter over the typical 'Xs and Os' approach. Their distinct style has cultivated something extraordinary, propelling the podcast to trend consistently every week on TikTok and YouTube.
Above: Travis and his brother, Jason, host a successful podcast, New Heights.
Beyond thoroughly vetting and understanding an influencer before officially partnering, brands must collaborate with them to ensure their campaign doesn’t drown in a sea of endorsements, and that their messaging remains authentic and resonant amidst the noise.
The takeaway: mastermind your next partnership
Killa Trav's evolution from gridiron star to cultural icon serves as a blueprint for brands in the influencer marketing arena.
Killa Trav's evolution from gridiron star to cultural icon serves as a blueprint for brands.
Embrace authenticity, stay agile, and keep your sights set on the endgame, while keeping your ear to the ground for emerging trends.
In relationships and work, taking a risk to mastermind your perfect match may just result in true love. Are you ready for it?