Updated: Oct 17
Taylor Swift has been a force of nature for a while now. Sold out stadium tour, appearances, award shows, a dramatically large social presence, and a relationship with her fans (Swifties) that we’ve never seen in this modern era of media. As big as all of that, everything got bigger when it was rumored that Taylor was dating Kansas City Chief’s tight end Travis Kelce. Then she showed up at a game in Kansas City’s famed Arrowhead Stadium. In a suite. Next to Travis Kelce’s mother. Jumping and cheering as Kelce scored a touchdown. The world titled on its’ axis.
Social media went into overdrive as fans started posting what they saw on TV or what those at the game witnessed on the stadium jumbotron. Taylor Swift was in-the-house for a Chiefs game. TV viewership for the game spiked to 24.3 million viewers. The number of viewers grew even more to 29.4 million viewers for the Chiefs-Jets game in NYC as Taylor was once again in attendance. The sale of Kelsey’s jersey has rocketed upwards by 400% … so far.
Kelce’s mother was on NBC’s The Today Show this past Friday morning. She gave up no secrets. Said that the romance was “to new” to say much. Didn’t share anything that one couldn’t have guessed. The publicity for the morning show exploded. To say the noise level of their casual dating is sonic-boom level would be an understatement. Many social media and digital news streams are pushing out lots of speculation, and yes … theories fit for a TV series … in hopes of building “clicks.”
What caught my attention was the quick marketing response from ad agency Rethink, to capitalize on a viral moment around Taylor Swift’s choice of food at one of the games. A tweet from a fan account commented on a picture of Taylor eating a piece of chicken with ketchup and a sauce that looked like ranch. The exact line was “eating a piece of chicken with ketchup and seemingly ranch.” Heinz and the agency launched a campaign within 24 hours for a new limited-edition condiment named … “Ketchup and Seemingly Ranch.”
The speed with which Heinz and their agency acted is admirable. Maybe even enviable. The ability to move quickly and react has always been one of the strengths of radio. Advertisers with last-minute copy changes can depend on radio to rewrite and rerecord a commercial in minutes, not days. A news event can lead to an on-air promotion, community activation to provide aid to an audience in need, or extending your brand by latching onto a pop culture opportunity. That’s what radio can and should do as often as possible, providing it makes sense and brand alignment is obvious.
There are radio stations that renamed themselves after Taylor during the days leading to a Taylor Swift concert. They’ve wrapped busses, buildings, leased billboard space, activated social media and digital ad campaigns linking the star to their programming. Special weekends, concert ticket promotions, merchandise giveaways, and tickets to her movie hitting theatres on Friday, October 13th are all a part of a significantly longer list of marketing tactics being employed by radio stations. Which are all good tactics.
The question though is … can radio act as quickly today as Heinz did in tying themselves to a unique viral moment? I’d like to think we could and that we would. I work with clients who have ideation teams and are always looking for lightening rod moments that can be taken advantage of, but not all stations have such an approach. They’re busy with the task at-hand and not appreciative of the unexpected marketing opportunity. It’d be a sad moment to realize that a condiment company can move more quickly than radio.