NBC's successor to Yaccarino reveals the power of NFL commercials: 'There’s no bigger brand in the world than Taylor Swift, and she still needed help to actually sell tickets'

Taylor Swift and the NFL have a closer relationship than ever, and even TV executives are in on it. 

Mark Marshall, NBCUniversal’s new ad chairman, name-checked Taylor Swift in his first public appearance since replacing Linda Yaccarino, now CEO of X, formerly Twitter. He described helping Swift sell tickets to Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, a film that premiered last Friday and shows her performing for nearly three hours in concert. 

“There’s no bigger brand in the world than Taylor Swift, and she still needed help to actually sell [movie] tickets,” he said at the Advertising Week conference in New York on Tuesday. The help, in part, was the NFL. 

Several weeks ago, Swift’s film distributor, AMC, contacted NBCUniversal-owned Fandango for help selling tickets to the new movie, Marshall said. Swift had bypassed the traditional Hollywood studios by producing the film herself and inking a distribution deal directly with AMC. Swifties had quickly bought up tickets for the first two weekends of her movie like they had for her concerts, Marshall said, but advance ticket sales dropped off noticeably for the following weeks. AMC wanted to fix that, he said. 

In the end, NBCUniversal ran four commercials for the film—two during the Voice singing competition show and two during NFL Sunday Night Football on October 1, a game which Swift attended. During the game, announcers also mentioned the film as part of their on-air commentary. AMC’s average daily sales rose 50% following just those four commercials, Marshall said. 

The NFL had also asked networks to show Swift’s movie commercials for free, the New York Post previously reported. NBC and ESPN complied. The Post called it a “favor,” though in NBC’s case, the ad slot was reportedly already paid for. 

Over the past weekend, Swift’s film brought in $92.8 million in U.S. box office sales, breaking the record for a concert movie premiere in North America. Theaters keep 43% of revenues, while Swift and AMC split the rest, the majority going to the artist, Fortune reported. 

At the conference on Tuesday, Marshall’s comment that Swift “still needed help to sell tickets” was meant as a sales pitch to advertisers in the room rather than as a jab at the artist’s box office appeal. Marshall, who was promoted in August after nearly 10 years at the company, joked he now knows what “Swiftie” means—a loyal fan and follower of Taylor Swift.

Swift and the NFL have been inseparable lately following rumors that the singer is dating Travis Kelce, a Kansas City Chiefs tight end. She has attended a handful of games, sitting in a box next to Kelce’s mom, Donna Kelce, and alongside celebrities like Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, and Sophie Turner. 

The NFL and the networks that broadcast its games have eagerly played along with the relationship in an effort to win over Swift’s huge fan base (and the money that comes with them). The networks have given the “Eras” superstar valuable screen time during the games and created a pregame explainer giving context to the teams and season for new viewers. They also featured her “Welcome to New York” on air. In return, the broadcasters have enjoyed increased viewership while the NFL has benefited from more ticket and merchandise sales.

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