Every time Taylor Swift shows up in Kansas City, people eat more donuts.
Last July, Donutology’s two stores in the city made 20,000 donuts in a single weekend after marketing “Tayl-gating” 30-packs, including Lavender Glazes and Caramel Is a Cat bismarcks, to meet the demand of 74,000 Swifties at two Arrowhead Stadium concerts. The stores hastily hired former employees for around-the-clock frying and assigned their marketing director, Abby Meyer, to help in the packaging department. “It hasn’t really died since then,” Meyer says.
Unlike other U.S. cities on last summer’s Eras tour, Kansas City’s Swiftie boom continues, thanks to the singer’s high-profile presence in the city this fall with her boyfriend, Travis Kelce of the NFL’s Chiefs. And Donutology isn’t the only one cashing in on the buzz: Local businesses such as clothing shops Westside Storey and Made In KC and restaurants Piropos and Prime Social have significantly boosted their sales, social-media views and website traffic over the past few months.
“We can’t attach a number to it,” says Tim Cowden, president/CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council. “It’s an incredible opportunity that she is providing our region.”
According to the city’s Economic Development Council, Eras tickets across the United States sold at an average price of $1,200, so the Kansas City shows generated $88.8 million in revenue. Additionally, Swifties bought $1,300 to $1,500 worth of meals, merch and other goods throughout the tour, and for Kansas City, that amounted to an overall financial impact of $185 million to $200 million. Then, after Swift’s widely viewed appearance last Sunday in a vintage Chiefs sweatshirt during the team’s game against the Green Bay Packers, Westside Storey, which sold her the item, landed an unprecedented 100 online orders in the two or three days after the game, according to the store’s owner, Chris Harrington.
“It’s quite insane,” says Harrington. “It’s just driven traffic like we’ve never had before. We’re waiting to see when it ends.”
Piropos, the Argentine restaurant where Swift and Kelce had a Kansas City dinner date in late October, reports a similarly massive word-of-mouth reaction. “We didn’t put up any sign. People just called us,” says Cristina Worden, the restaurant’s owner. “We got more reservations, we have more commentary. It’s been great for every business.”
The Eras-related sales spike in Kansas City took Keith Bradley, co-owner of the 11-store gift-and-apparel chain Made In KC, by surprise. Ticketholders streamed into town, buying apparel, jewelry, candles and hats, and the stores scrambled to adapt by launching Swift-themed drinks and friendship bracelets. Nearly three months later, when Swift attended her first Chiefs game, “it felt like that was a new wave,” Bradley says, adding that his shops’ most popular holiday-season products are “anything Taylor and Travis,” such as candles and T-shirts.
The Swift-Kelce romance is a feel-good, fast-moving story and a “buzzworthy partnership,” as Katie Essing, a University of Missouri assistant teaching professor of marketing, describes it — which allows brands to attach themselves for exposure without fearing backlash or consequences. After Swift publicly ate chicken fingers with ketchup and what appeared to be ranch dressing at a Chiefs game in late September, KFC referred to Swift on social media as its “Ranch Queen” and Heinz launched a new flavor called Ketchup and Seemingly Ranch. “Brands having anything to do with ranch could jump on social media,” Essing says. “And that’s what we see happening with the brands in the Kansas City area with this relationship.”
The Eras Tour was so huge — grossing $900 million plus, with 63,000 ticket sales per show, or 3.3 million overall, according to Billboard estimates — that officials and businesses in host cities had to be asleep to not take advantage of the marketing opportunities. Tampa named Swift “honorary mayor”; Las Vegas lit up its Gateway Arches in colors representing all of her albums; and Seattle’s Japonessa Sushi Cocini racked up $10,000 in sales of “Reputation” sushi rolls and cocktails packed with glitter. But only Kansas City has extended its Swiftie effect beyond Eras.
Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas says the NFL Draft in April, which reportedly drew 312,000 attendees and generated $164.3 million, led to “flack” from some local businesses. (Owners complained about street closures, excessive traffic and high parking costs that kept regular customers away.) “Taylor Swift was the opposite — for almost no municipal investment, we’re getting a heck of an investment,” he tells Billboard. “Any mayor would love to have Taylor Swift just start randomly coming to their city. This is great for our economy. It’s great for our culture. It’s great for letting people know we have this dynamic city. Life kind of sucks, so it’s nice to just see two happy people enjoying life.”