Despite those stratospheric levels of interest, the film’s marketing campaign has defied the usual patterns of a mainstream Hollywood release. As of October 6, ad tracking firm iSpot found that the main TV spot for the film had aired just 38 times on national linear TV, with 17 of those occurring after Swift made her first appearance at a Kansas City Chiefs game to root on her reported boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Of those 17 airings, seven of them appeared either on a live game or on the NFL Network. Capitol One’s “Multiple Taylors” ads have also carried a tagline for the Eras doc since September 23, airing more than 300 times.
That level of TV presence, however, pales next to that of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, whose TV ad aired more than 8,000 times at the same point in its buildup. Other major releases routinely rack up thousands of airings as studios continue to rely on the traditional shotgun technique of TV buying.
The NFL has conceded it is “leaning into” the “Tay-vis” phenomenon, and the New York Post even reported that the league leaned on its TV partners to offer free ad inventory during their pregame shows. In helping plug the Eras doc, the league reportedly figured, it would improve its chances of landing Swift as a halftime show performer at next February’s Super Bowl.
While the league’s affection for Swift makes a certain amount of sense, it also runs counter to a few trends at play in the film’s release.
The first is that the distributor of The Eras Tour is not a conventional studio buying TV ads by the dozens to promote its films during hugely rated NFL games. Rather, it is top movie theater chain AMC Entertainment, which outmaneuvered several bidders for the film despite not having had extensive experience in distribution. (AMC has steadfastly declined to discuss its approach to marketing, as has Swift’s team.)
There is a pretty clear reason why AMC prevailed over studios looking to keep 20% of the gross as a service fee, several movie marketing vets told Deadline. Swift, with hundreds of millions of social media followers, has mastered the art of mobilizing her base. Similar to Beyoncé, who has her own concert movie coming in December, Swift is basically beyond television, except for one-offs like performing on Saturday Night Live.
“She doesn’t need the NFL,” one studio veteran told Deadline. “Her fan base is 55% of America, and her community has been talking about her and her tour for months.” With Swift set to earn more than $1 billion in Eras Tour proceeds, the idea that she needs to fall back on conventional ways of selling movie tickets strains credulity. However gigantic the movie ends up being at the box office (and even an opening in the $60 million to $70 million range would instantly make it the biggest concert film ever), it is extremely inexpensive to both make and market compared with other wide releases.
In a time of strife for the theatrical marketplace, with the strikes altering the flow of new releases and existential questions continuing to surround the business, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour has been a balm. Even though it isn’t a conventional player in the marketing game and is relying on earned media and social to an outsized degree, AMC does have its giant footprint of theaters in the U.S. and internationally, where promotions are prevalent both on screen and off.
The unique nature of the campaign hasn’t prevented co-marketing partners from throwing their hat in the ring. Capital One’s updated version of a 2022 Swift message has aired during at least four NFL games as well as during NFL-related studio programming, according to iSpot. Thus far, 82 of the new ad’s airings came during NFL or college football games, with another 62 during sports studio shows.
However much excitement as the Eras release is stirring in the marketplace, a person close to NFL sales for one broadcast network carrying the NFL tells Deadline that the phenomenon is somewhat removed from the beer-and-trucks advertising wheelhouse for the league. The audience for Swift and Beyoncé concert films “isn’t a direct correlation” with marketers’ general appetite to get in front of NFL fans, the source added.
“That male audience is at the margins for Taylor,” a marketer told Deadline. “They were never going to be the ones driving this movie.”