According to a report from Entertainment Tonight, Taylor Swift will perform on ESPN at halftime of the College Football National Championship in Atlanta on Jan. 8. The concert will take place off-site at Centennial Park and will be free and open to the public.
This news (which College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock has denied) will surely excite you if you are a Taylor Swift fan and enrage you if you are a Taylor Swift hater, but let’s leave aside whether she will or won’t give a good performance and discuss a more interesting aspect of this.
Per ET, Swift won’t perform at the Super Bowl halftime show because that show is sponsored by Pepsi, and Swift has an endorsement deal with Coke. The College Football National Championship is sponsored by not only Coke but also another Swift partner, AT&T, making it a perfect fit for someone who clearly values her corporate relationships quite highly.
Swift’s loyalty to her sponsors has her sacrificing the glamor and attention that comes with the Super Bowl, which has five times the viewership and 10 times the cultural cachet as the College Football National Championship. The Super Bowl halftime show creates indelible moments, good and bad, from Michael Jackson in 1993 to the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake fiasco in 2004 to Beyonce in 2013. The College Football Championship Game halftime show, by contrast, is not a thing.
From ESPN’s perspective, though, this is a huge get. The network announced earlier this year that it wanted the college title game to have a Super Bowl-like halftime spectacle with a big-name headliner, and Swift is arguably the biggest pop star in the world. No matter what you think of her, she will make this game feel more relevant and more grandiose to a segment of Americans.
ESPN, of course, hopes a bunch of Swift-loving non-football fans tune into the College Football Championship Game just for the halftime show and that the spectacle of an A-list halftime performer will elevate the event’s cultural footprint. We’ll find out in January how well the plan works.