But that box is breaking, players said, as franchises begin to recognize the value of marketing players’ off-the-field lives. The Los Angeles Rams now produce a podcast with quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Before the Dolphins fullback Alec Ingold started his podcast in April, he alerted the team’s public-relations staff, which soon recommended he participate in a developmental broadcast boot camp.
“Football is turning more into entertainment,” Ingold said. “All these touch points allow fans to grow closer to their favorite players, and I think become more invested to the product on the field on Sundays.”
In the summer of 2022, the Kelces moved ahead with their podcast with Wave Sports + Entertainment.
Both brothers were initially wary of distracting their teams, but Jason Kelce said they became more comfortable after seeing Lewan and Compton’s successful show. They were further swayed by the basketball player Draymond Green, who documented the Golden State Warriors’ 2021-22 championship season, including an episode from his hotel room after he was ejected from a playoff game.
The Kelces informed their teams’ public-relations staffs that they were starting “New Heights” — a play on Cleveland Heights, Ohio, their hometown — and Wave sent crews to their homes to install recording equipment. Shows are typically taped on Tuesdays, the normal off day for N.F.L. players.
“Dealing with athletes, they’re creatures of habit, so as long as we can find some weekly time for them to lock it in, it makes it super easy for them,” said Tunde St. Matthew-Daniel, the senior vice president of original content for Wave. “We have the operation around them; all they have to do is show up and be engaged.”
“New Heights” succeeded quickly because of the Kelces’ jovial nature but broke through in February, when the media frenzy before the Super Bowl focused heavily on the brothers’ relationship. Another round of new listeners and viewers arrived in September after Swift attended one of Travis Kelce’s games.
For many of Swift’s devoted fans, the podcast became their introduction to football.
“We were confident it would be good, but I don’t think anybody anticipated that amount of growth,” Jason Kelce said. “We kind of struck lightning in a bottle.”