Inside the Kansas City Chiefs’ Postseason Campaign — Featuring Hallmark Star Tyler Hynes, Taylor Swift Nods and Travis Kelce’s Mom

Inside the Kansas City Chiefs’ Postseason Campaign — Featuring Hallmark Star Tyler Hynes, Taylor Swift Nods and Travis Kelce’s Mom

Movies, News

The Kansas City Chiefs are continuing to lean into romance. The team, which has made more headlines than ever this season thanks to tight end Travis Kelce’s relationship with Taylor Swift, is celebrating the playoffs season with a whole new campaign titled ‘Tis the Preseason. (Is that a nod to Swift’s “‘Tis the Damn Season”? You be the judge.)

Part of that campaign is a new trailer for a movie titled “Falling for Football.” A spoof on all the cliches of a made-for-TV movie, while celebrating the Chiefs Kingdom, the video stars Hallmark Channel staples Tyler Hynes and Janel Parrish; her character hates the postseason after being left at the altar for a playoff game, while he works at the Chiefs’ merchandise store. First, he hides his love for football from her, but when she finds out, she’s torn on what to do.

So, she turns to Donna Kelce, who is working at a local diner, and asks “How could he love me and football.” The proud mom of two NFL players on different teams responds, “You know, the heart can be in two places at once.”

The couple, of course, finds love in the end after she takes Donna’s advice. Plus, there are seemingly a few Swift Easter Eggs in the video. Right before Parrish leaves the diner, offensive lineman Creed Humphrey announces “Order number 13” is ready; Swift’s lucky number is 13. In another scene, Hynes is organizing friendship bracelets — a staple on Swift’s Eras tour.

Donna Kelce in “Falling for Football”

The trailer, Hynes tells Variety, came together extremely quickly. The Chiefs reached out directly to his team in early December. A few days later, right after he appeared at ChristmasCon, he hopped on a plane to Kansas City. Upon arrival, he and Parrish, who costarred in this year’s Hallmark Christmas movie “Never Been Chris’d,” were taken on a tour of the stadium and given personalized Chiefs jerseys.

While Hynes is very familiar with meet-cute moments on screen — he’s starred in 17 movies for Hallmark Media, one of which landed the top spot on our Best Hallmark Movies Ever list — sports aren’t exactly his forte. Growing up in Canada, he didn’t attend a bunch of football games… nor was he a Swiftie.

“I am now,” he says. “Football and Taylor Swift are new things to me. I grew up without the money to afford organized sports and was a skateboarder, but going to Kansas, the folks who were taking care of us there — the whole PR team, everyone — I was genuinely moved and touched by this whole experience and how sweet these people were. They gave us jerseys with our names on them. And it was really, really beautiful. I went home and started watching the Netflix documentary series, fast forwarding to all of Patrick Mahomes’ parts.”

Plus, he’s been listening to a lot more of Swift’s music.

“I’m the problem, it’s me,” Hynes says with a laugh during our interview. In fact, that song, “Anti-Hero” came out while filming his 2023 Hallmark movie “A Picture of Her,” and he couldn’t stop saying that line on set. Now, it’s all come full circle. “She’s such an icon. Her world is massive, but it seems like it’s such a tight-knit community, it doesn’t seem unreflective of the folks who watch our channel.”

As part of the ‘Tis the Postseason campaign, Chiefs fans can shop for items shown in the store that Hynes’ character works in — including the exclusive “Sweet Nectar of the Endzone” candle — and they can access recipes from The Kingdom Cookbook, which includes recipes from Chiefs players, staff and their families, on the Chiefs mobile app.

The planning began just a few months ago, Chiefs EVP and CMO Lara Krug tells Variety, noting that they “reviewed several concepts” but one hit close to home for both the team and the local agency they worked with. “The idea of the playoffs as their own holiday resonated with us internally. Holidays are filled with traditions, celebrations and they’re a cause for gathering with family and friends. Once we landed on that concept, we really started to dig into unique ways we could deliver that holiday feeling. That’s where the idea of the movie trailer came in, it was a chance to take this entire made-for-TV movie genre and apply a Chiefs twist to it for our fans.”

Janel Parrish

She adds, “Because nothing is promised or guaranteed, it creates a special feeling of anticipation for players, coaches, staff and fans alike. This year, we leaned into the postseason as its own holiday and are inviting Chiefs Kingdom to celebrate with us. While you won’t find this holiday printed on calendars, the family traditions, stories, recipes, decorations, and made-for-TV movie trailer all emphasize the excitement that Chiefs Kingdom can celebrate together across the globe.”

Krug tells Variety they thought it was important to add talent in that “would add a level of authenticity,” which made Parrish and Hynes perfect, since they “are recognized by fans of the genre and have their own fan following, many of whom may not be familiar with the Chiefs brand or Kansas City in general.”

“We knew that we could add additional talent and celebrities to give it a more local flare, but we wanted the main talent to be true to the style and feeling of this category,” she says, adding that when it came to adding in current Chiefs players, they had to figure out scheduling and whose personalities would work best. “We work with our internal resources to be respectful of the players’ time and the number of requests that they receive both internally and externally. While Patrick and Travis may be the biggest names in terms of recognition, they already have a lot of things pulling them in different directions and may just not be the right fit for every project. Working as part of the team, we can find players who are most interested in projects like this and position them in new and fun ways to our fans and the viewers.”

To do so, they brought in Humphrey, Trey Smith and Tommy Townsend who “seemed to really enjoy the experience.”

For his part, Hynes jumped at the opportunity to be part of the concept, noting how smart he thought it was from a branding position to treat the postseason as a holiday.

“It’s in good taste. It’s sort of celebrating these Hallmark movies, and I’m always interested in doing that. It just seems like genuinely, all the same folks are into it,” he tells Variety. “There’s a limited amount of places, it seems, where there is very sincere, pure interaction and intention. I feel like there is a bit of a mirror image with that specific fandom and Hallmark Channel… I think there’s a bit of a crossover and there’s a mix of that audience that’s into being very passionate and sincere in their wholesome pursuit of entertainment and being inspired by whether it’s athletes or a nice story. It feels like it’s all part of the same universe.”

While Hallmark wasn’t involved in this collaboration, they tapped into that universe last month. ESPN reached out to the network to work together on a segment, during which writer Julie Sherman Wolfe broke down the NFL football season as a Hallmark Christmas movie. It aired on Christmas Eve on both “Sunday NFL Countdown” and “SportsCenter.”

The Hallmark audience and the NFL audience definitely overlap. According to USA F22, 24% of Hallmark Channel’s total day audience was male during “Countdown to Christmas,” the network’s annual holiday movie event. Hallmark Channel is also the No. 3 most-watched cable network with men, only after ESPN and Fox News. Plus, more than 50% of the “Countdown to Christmas” viewers watched ESPN over the holiday season last year.

“One group that we’re always trying to engage with is millennial parents. They may or may not be located in Kansas City, but wherever they are, they’re usually really in-tune and engaged with our content and they have children who are growing up to be Chiefs fans as well,” Krug says of the fanbase. “We thought this type of short film would speak to them. We also know this genre of film has somewhat of a cult following because of the feel-good nature and the heart-warming storylines that so many enjoy during the holidays. So, by playing into some of those enjoyable, predictable cliches while infusing some fun cameos for the traditional football fan, we thought this would hit the right tone as we start our playoff season.”

Watch the Chiefs’ full “Falling for Football” trailer below:

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