An Influencer Evolution, Starring the NFL (Taylor’s Version) 

In the dynamic world of marketing and brand promotion, the traditional approach to influencer partnerships is evolving. Conventional influencer relations strategy involves identifying and collaborating with influencers deeply rooted in a particular niche, such as food, travel or fashion. However, an alternative approach is emerging—one that involves partnering with influencers genuinely interested in your brand, even if their audience might not traditionally align with your product or service.

What’s currently the best example of this trend? Let’s examine Taylor Swift and her unexpected impact on the NFL. Taylor's loyal, curious and engaged following, traditionally Gen Z and millennial women, were certainly not the NFL’s target demographic before this season. However, with sparks flying between Taylor and the Kansas City Chiefs's Travis Kelce, the national FOX broadcast that first featured Taylor at a Chiefs game was the highest-rated NFL game of the week among women in three different age demographics, according to FOX Sports. Since then, a survey from LendingTree revealed a 13 percent overall increase of interest in football, with a particularly significant rise among Gen Z and millennials.

Capitalize on Unexpected Influence

Although this partnership between the NFL and Taylor Swift was not planned, the NFL needed to seize the opportunity while it was timely and relevant. (After all, Taylor and Travis could have broken up before the next Chief’s game, right?) The NFL took its first step by adapting its social media bios to incorporate Taylor Swift's influence and has since continued to publish posts featuring Taylor cheering for Travis and, most recently, embracing him after his AFC championship game. This move signifies a shift towards embracing new fans and transitioning them to committed followers.

The ripple effect of strategic, unexpected partnerships extends beyond a single collaboration. By focusing on building continued interest with a new audience and then loyalty, brands like the NFL can expect a continued return on their investment—in this case, approximately $331.5 million. These collaborations can also raise the profiles of original brand ambassadors. It’s safe to say that Travis Kelce was previously unknown to thousands of Americans who may not have been football fans, who now use his name in regular conversation.

Strike a Balance With Brand Ambassadors

“Out with the old and in with the new” is not what brands should be striving for and understanding that there is the potential of upsetting the original fan base when exploring unexpected collaborations is crucial. Balance between different types of brand ambassadors is important, as is staying true to your bread-and-butter content. Drawing insights from this NFL season, it is clear that loyal fans will stay, regardless of unconventional alliances, as long as brands continue to serve the expected content.

Three tips to remember when developing your next influencer campaign:

Timing and speed are critical. Recognizing the ever-changing nature of influencer trends is crucial for brands to stay ahead of the game, and for PR professionals, adaptability and seizing timely opportunities are key when trying to create impact similar to Taylor Swift’s NFL Era.

Think outside the box with partnerships. When planning your next influencer campaign, consider a partner whose following is on a different platform than what you are used to, such as TikTok or Twitch. Try to explore niches that are not the same but adjacent to your brand’s, or monitor your mentions and find a non-traditional personality who has organically shared their interest in your product or service.

Align your brand values and clarify objectives. As with any partnership, always ensure alignment of your brand values with the influencer’s and be clear about expectations and deliverables. By continually evaluating outcomes and adjusting strategies accordingly, PR professionals can drive meaningful engagement for their brands through unlikely influencer partnerships.

Gillian Janicki is Senior Account Associate at Inspire PR Group. Logan Trautman is Director at Inspire PR Group.