Realtime Fan Engagement Summit

Recently I had the opportunity to attend an exclusive Real-time Fan Engagement Summit for product and engineering leaders. In conjunction with Amazon Web Services, Ably brought together sports industry experts from the NBA, NASCAR, Stadion, and similar entities to talk about the quickly evolving present and fast-approaching future of fan engagement.

The summit took place at the functional yet very swanky AWS offices in Manhattan, and I enjoyed seeing how a FAANG office operates before heading off for dinner at the Flatiron Rooms. The whole atmosphere was laid-back but also very informative, and it became increasingly evident that what was imagined 10 years ago is now being used in the field.

For instance, just a few weeks ago I went to Opening Day for the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and the tech made everything so much more efficient and engaging. I purchased tickets on VividSeats, then scanned through automated security with my mobile wallet.

Payment for concessions was contactless (via card and ApplePay), and IoT wrist bracelets simultaneously signaled events and engaged the audience in the arena (conveniently, I later repurposed these bracelets for my Halloween costume as Dave the Diver). A tremendous amount of data and powerful new technologies fuel these small actions.

New Tools

New tools are popping up every day to create higher levels of fan engagement, and I learned more about the technologies making that happen.


I enjoyed getting an inside look at the Ably Infrastructure as it relates to AWS. It’s very robust, with SDKs and APIs that power real-time capabilities like chat, data broadcast, and synchronization. multiplayer collaboration, and more. Fans receive immediate updates and mobile notifications, and teams/leagues know who is online/offline and how many people are subscribed to live updates.

AWS Clean Rooms

AWS Principal Tech Leads showed off AWS Clean Rooms, a data-sharing feature between providers that protects sensitive data. You can collaborate on a collective dataset without having to copy or move it outside of AWS. You can set up your own room pretty quickly, analyze datasets with your partners in order to get a singular view of a fan, look at customer loyalty data, issue personalized offers, and more.


LiveLike’s composable widgets and tools help increase fan engagement through loyalty programs, interactive features, and community-building social features. Very modular, very customizable, and very focused on revenue-driving opportunities. The company also recommends saying “Direct to Fans” (“DTF”) instead of “DTC.”


The partitioning of audiences through ActiveFence is intriguing. This real-time middleware analyzes public messaging and prevents mistrust, and has been on a spending spree of late, adding other security and privacy startups under its umbrella. Sports teams have taken particular interest in the platform.

Hot takes from the summit

  • AI is going to bring a huge performance boost to fan engagement. The next wave of engagement startups will feature AI prominently as a tool.
  • “Security” and “Trust” in systems need configurability for audience engagement. If it goes too far to scrub, then there’s a breakdown in users being able to express themselves.
  • Real-time Fan Engagement is really about the “event-sharing” of data – the accurate state of a match and corresponding analyses. However, the user’s experience can be distracted by “blinky light screens” instead of the players.
  • Often there’s an emphasis in product design to serve the “god of efficiency” in terms of speed and performance. It’s important to know when tech should get out of the way and augment, not override, the experience.

Expertise in fan engagement

For years we’ve been building apps that level up fan engagement, like the Stats-In-A-Box SDK we developed for the NBA, which showcases scores, stats, and more to ensure fans are always in the loop. 

We’ve done similar work for the Women’s Tennis Association and FansView, and we’re always looking to partner with teams, leagues, and tech companies to bring fans closer to the sport they love. Do you have an app you’d like to build that changes the game? Contact us today.

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