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The Taylor Swift school of marketing

Three images of Taylor Swift and a friendship bracelet containing the letters of her name, a megaphone, and a smartphone.

Illustration by Robyn Phelps / Getty / The Current

If anyone were to make the NFL even more popular, it makes sense that it would be Taylor Swift.

The pop star has been spending time with Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce. And her appearance at recent NFL games potentially sparked an increase in the league’s viewership and ratings, as well as Kelce’s jerseys.

It’s yet another example of the power of Swift’s presence to create waves across the culture, and more evidence that her loyal fans will follow her wherever she goes. It’s also a case of two pop culture forces colliding: the NFL and Swift. She’s dominated the zeitgeist this year, primarily with a record-breaking concert tour that is pacing to be the biggest of all time. Building on all of this success, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour — a concert movie of her live show — arrives in movie theaters today. “Now Swift’s empire has come for the movie industry,” runs a line in The Washington Post.

The movie bypassed the traditional model in which a film studio distributes and markets the film; instead, Swift went directly to the theaters, putting promotional efforts primarily in her team’s hands, given their proven track record. The move is being viewed as a savvy marketing choice by Swift, who understands her audience perhaps better than most. What lessons does it hold for brands?

“Swift’s choice to bypass traditional distribution channels and connect directly with her audience underscores the power of authenticity, direct engagement, and seizing the moment,” Kaitlin Colston, director of marketing at Race Communications tells The Current. “Marketers can learn that establishing a direct connection with their target audience can lead to deeper engagement and better results.”

In other words, Swift doesn’t need a movie studio to take on marketing responsibilities. “Swift’s brand, audience, and reach is so big she doesn’t have to go through the traditional model,” says Alex Craig, founder of marketing agency TriplePlay Studios.

Swift has built and understands her audience so well that she can go direct and market specifically to her fans on her own terms, across different mediums. “Marketers can learn from this the significance of tailoring their distribution and promotional strategies to cater to their audience’s interests and preferences. It’s about delivering the content in a format and location that resonates with your target audience,” adds Colston.

Some brands are already getting in on the action.

Screenvision, an in-theater advertising company, is creating a “special, customized, bespoke pre-show experience” that will be Swift-inspired, according to CEO John Partilla. It will involve 10 national brands across various categories and will play in front of the Eras Tour movie for their cinema partners. It could offer advertisers a unique opportunity to engage with new storytelling formats and consumer data.

The cherry on top is that the movie is expected to be a hit, so any brands that get in front of it will likely have the benefit of being seen by attentive consumers in the theater. Boxoffice Pro Chief Analyst Shawn Robbins projects up to a $140 million debut in U.S. ticket sales.

“In addition to Hollywood slate, the movie theater is a communal destination that can do more than just feature top Hollywood content,” Partilla says. “I’ve thought for many years that there are experiences that can be shared on that screen that people have a hard time getting access to.”

Colston adds that Swift’s successful promotion of her movie underscores the power of repurposing content. “The ‘Eras Tour’ is a testament to the fact that when done right, repurposing content can be a masterful way to engage and reconnect with fans while appealing to new audiences who may have missed out on the original experience live. Swift’s ability to seamlessly blend the magic of her live tour with innovation inspires marketers and creators alike, showcasing the endless possibilities that lie in the art of repurposing,” she says.