Pandering to non-fans and alienating their core audience is what the NFL has specialized in over the last month. NASCAR should take notice.
Let’s get straight to the point: any and every NFL fan I’ve talked to over the last month is sick and tired of the continuous promotion of Taylor Swift amid her (still) rumored relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. And for the record, “every NFL fan”, in this instance, includes a pool including both “Swifties” and actual Chiefs fans.
It was great the first time. Maybe even the second time. But after the fifth time, multiplied out by about 15 suite camera shots per game and nonstop Swift references during the broadcasts and throughout the week, it got really old really quickly.
Maybe you’ve had a different experience. Maybe you still watch NFL games just to see her. Maybe you don’t mind it or are indifferent. Maybe you watch NFL games to count how many times they show her. I’m not saying you don’t exist.
Heck, I used to watch Sunday Night Football just to count how many times Cris Collinsworth randomly mentioned Tom Brady (there’s a good drinking game idea, for anyone interested).
But collectively, the core NFL fanbase is sick and tired of the nonstop pandering to a “Swiftie” crowd whose interest in the actual on-field football product has always been minimal.
When you have a league sending out legitimate press releases featuring Kelce stats in relation to Swift’s attendance at games, you have a problem.
I don’t disagree that attracting new fans isn’t a bad thing. But attracting new fans doesn’t always equate to sustained growth for one simple reason: the word “fan” gets tossed around more than it is truly applicable.
And overdoing it can lead to disaster among true existing fans.
Sure, Kelce jersey sales skyrocketed last month, and the rumored relationship even led to 24 million fans tuning into a Chicago Bears game. Not many people can make that happen.
But despite the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs being arguably the best team in the NFL, those numbers fell off dramatically after a single week (and for a hotly contested prime time game with her in attendance, no less). And even if they’re still slightly up, it’s not going to last.
That type of “get rich quick” growth is simply not sustainable. Yet the NFL still insists on showing her reaction basically every time the Chiefs run a successful play to the point where you have people hoping they lose just so it stops.
Even Kelce has said that the NFL is overdoing it, though the “poor me” attitude is somewhat laughable given that he knew what he signed up for when he decided to make it public — even before anything was going on.
NASCAR, of course, has plenty of experience losing core fans over changes aimed at bringing in new ones.
Whether you look at certain schedule changes over the years, the addition of the playoffs in 2004, the playoff format overhaul of 2014, or the introduction of stage racing in 2017, many fans who once watched the races weekly have left the sport either mostly or entirely.
Every single ex-NASCAR fan I have ever talked to has referenced one or more of these changes as to why they no longer follow the sport, and I’m sure there are many others.
But at least those decisions have pertained to the on-track product, and the racing itself is still NASCAR racing. Every sport evolves, and this one is no exception.
It’s not like these changes resulted in a massive spike in NASCAR’s popularity, only to fail later on; they were simply part of a steady decline. Some like it, some don’t. I’m sure there are quite a few fans who didn’t follow the sport pre-playoffs, and that’s great. Again, not saying you don’t exist.
Having said that, the majority of core fans resent anything that NASCAR focuses on — or any change NASCAR makes — away from the race track, especially if it’s in any way controversial. Without singling out one thing to stir the pot, it’s clear and obvious that non-sports-related issues always result in more of a drastic variety of opinions.
When a celebrity attends a NASCAR race, they are shown/posted about maybe once or twice. It’s fun, it’s cool, and it’s not invasive. Awesome.
Quite frankly, the only celebrities NASCAR really promotes are Michael Jordan and Pitbull, and that’s because they literally own race-winning Cup Series organizations. Last time I checked, Arrowhead Stadium isn’t known as “the house that Taylor built”.
Other celebrity appearances aren’t obsessed about for weeks, and they don’t border on becoming full-fledged infatuations.
You can’t blame Chase Elliott for deleting his Nashville pictures due to what basically amounts to the ensuing social media harassment he received from pretend NASCAR fans.
Yet those are the type of “fans” that the NFL is now pandering to on a play-by-play basis. Having stated that they (NFL) don’t feel they have done anything wrong by capitalizing on their “pop cultural moment”, one must question if anybody’s definition of “moment” really means a months-long love affair.
One must question if a “moment” really translates to literally asking networks to promote her nonstop.
Do I think the NFL is going to tank if changes aren’t made? Absolutely not. Football remains king in the United States. But I do think that the frustration among the fans who turn on a football game because they actually want to watch a football game will become more and more evident and harder and harder for the powers at be to ignore.
Am I somewhat a hypocrite — especially on a NASCAR site — for even bringing this up instead of leaving well enough alone? Yes, probably. But better now than later, when NASCAR starts doing the same thing. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, because NASCAR fans aren’t exactly known for their abundance of patience.