Thought Leadership
8 minutes

Article Update 2/21/2024

In keeping with the rapidly evolving landscape of fan engagement, this article has been updated to include the latest trends and strategies highlighted at the INTIX 2024 conference. These insights reflect a broadening scope of engagement, not just within sports but across all realms of entertainment, emphasizing the importance of gamification, experiential marketing, and innovative technologies in creating memorable fan experiences.

Entertainment has become more interactive than ever before, driving audiences to interact with events through mixed reality experiences and transforming how patrons communicate with performers. 

The entertainment industry has struggled since 2020 to understand how lockdowns changed fan behavior. Consumer habits were deeply changed and many fans no longer wanted to go to crowded venues, but with additional content accessible from the comfort of their homes fans remained engaged. 

Fan engagement has been a key theme for music, entertainment, and sports, as well as the gaming (esports) industry. In the past few years, we have witnessed the rapidly growing convergence between social media, streaming, and gaming. 

The Esports audience has grown impressively from approximately 435 million in 2020 to over 540 million in 2024, and it's projected to surpass 640 million by 2025, highlighting the sustained expansion and rising popularity of Esports worldwide.1 Twitch is one example of how an online platform can be transformed into a community-building interactive powerhouse. In 2017 there were 750,000 eSport viewers on Twitch, and in 2023 reached 2.44 million.2 Twitch upholds its standing as one of the most-visited websites in the US through user engagement features, like live broadcasting, chat boxes, and interactive content. 

Using a carefully crafted fan engagement strategy that focuses on fan identification and engagement before, during, and after events can enhance brand loyalty and drive additional sales. Keep reading to learn more about the growing influence of fan engagement platforms on just about every part of the entertainment industry.

Innovations in Fan Engagement

The world of fan engagement is continuously transforming, a trend vividly illustrated at the INTIX 2024 conference. A standout theme was the unleashing of engagement through gamification and experiential marketing. Integrating game mechanics into the ticketing experience not only makes the process more enjoyable but also turns every interaction with the platform into an opportunity for engagement. For instance, loyalty programs that reward actions with points or badges and AR experiences that offer event sneak peeks are revolutionizing how fans connect with events, building anticipation and excitement like never before.

Additionally, the conference shed light on mastering cross-selling with strategic insights. Leveraging deep customer insights and event-goer data, platforms can now offer more relevant add-ons and merchandise, significantly boosting revenue. Personalized merchandise and exclusive experiences cater to the fan's desire for a more tailored event experience, with souvenir tickets adding a tangible, memorable element to the digital ticketing experience.

sourvenir tickets

Enhancing Customer Experience Through Technology

Many presenters at INTIX 2024 emphasized the importance of enhancing the customer experience through technology. A mobile-first strategy and a connected tech stack are crucial for a seamless customer journey from discovery to post-event engagement.

A global report by Nielsen found that sports fans are becoming more fragmented across streaming, app, and gaming platforms, underlining the need for sports properties to continue broad technology development and data analysis to stay on top of changing fan behaviors and capitalize on the interest of younger groups.

This approach includes providing free WiFi at venues, supporting mobile payments, and offering digital rewards. Additionally, looking beyond the ticketing industry for innovation—such as adopting practices from fintech—can introduce new technologies to improve engagement, pricing, and security.

What is Fan Engagement?

The concept of fan engagement is related to how celebrities, performers, sports clubs, and even Esports players connect with their fan base. When a franchise is interested in building its following, its online communication can play a vital role in gathering fans, enhancing their engagement, and monetizing their interactions. 

Some experts find that fan engagement in sports and other types of entertainment is about the emotional connection that is created between the team or performer and the fans. If fans stopped showing support by no longer attending events and games, buying merchandise, and sharing event-related information on social media, many sports teams and entertainers would fail to succeed.

While in-person activity and attendance have changed since the pandemic, with ever-expanding technologies and potential for innovative fan engagement apps, there is more room than ever to connect with fans. Fan engagement is not simply having fans show up to sporting and musical events. Instead, it’s the intentional process of encouraging fans to participate in all matters related to the team or performer. The more a team or artist is part of a fan’s everyday life, the more value they will place on the entertainer’s brand, increasing fan satisfaction, brand popularity, and overall earnings.

fan engagement journey

The Four Quadrants of Fan Engagement

One of the hardest things when it comes to fans' engagement is to strike the right chord with fans. Too much engagement can be annoying while too little can make fans forget about events. That’s why sports marketers and consultants, Fowler and Wilson, created a matrix that explains how to manage both on and off-site fan engagement needs. 

The Four Quadrants of Sports Fan Engagement Matrix - Digital Platforms & CRM

Why Fan Engagement Matters 

Raising awareness is the first step toward establishing a solid fan base. Behind-the-screen videos, interviews, and competitions on social media are activities that encourage fan engagement during a show, and patron continuity in the long run. A strong emotional connection between a sports player, artist, or team and their fans leads to increased brand loyalty and a positive perception of the brand. 

Deloitte survey of more than 15,000 respondents found that the most engaged fans are six times more likely than casual fans to spend more on their teams. For example, excluding tickets, season ticket holders spend five times more than non-season ticket holders.

Fan Engagement in Sports

The connection between entertainers and their fans is growing stronger in the digital era. In particular, sports fans' eagerness for content skyrocketed in the past few years and more than half of them say they enjoy being engaged all year round

Sports teams have discovered that apps are the perfect way to increase fan engagement. As the line between the fans and teams continues to blur, the need for an interactive experience that keeps fans connected and engaged is paramount. These apps provide just that, creating an enjoyable platform for passionate fans to engage with their favorite teams on a deeper level. 

Some popular fan engagement apps in sports include ScoreStream, Sports Pledge, FanAI, and Wooter. ScoreStream allows teams to post-game information and updates in real time, while Sports Pledge rewards loyal fans with exclusive products, experiences, and access. FanAI helps teams and brands understand what drives their fans’ engagement by providing in-depth insights into their demographics and behaviors. Most of these apps include features such as digital wallets, navigation to parking spaces, in-venue navigation, parking booking, and a range of exclusive rewards and discounts. 

Fan engagement activities are not only reserved for game days. Many fans use their mobile devices to follow an event because they are interested in interacting with other fans, watching replays, and checking stats. 

Why Fan Engagement in Sports Matters - Sports Fans and Second-Screening while watching TV

When watching a game on TV, a large number of fans reach for an additional device. According to the Sports Business Institute, 87% of sports fans are second screening while watching a live sports broadcast, while some are even triple screening or multiple screening.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of sports fans on their phones engage in social media or message their friends, potentially to share their excitement about the game with friends or other fans and see their reactions. 

What Sports Fan Engagement Features Should be Prioritized?

Sports fan engagement ideas can include various activities and initiatives to increase fan interaction and loyalty. For example, teams can host fan appreciation days, offer exclusive discounts and merchandise, or create fan clubs and reward programs. Additionally, they can host watch parties, organize meet-and-greets with players and coaches, or host game-day events such as tailgates and barbecues. 

Social media can also be used to engage with fans by responding to comments, hosting Q&A sessions, or creating content that fans can share. Finally, teams can host contests and giveaways or create exclusive content such as behind-the-scenes videos, interviews with players and coaches, or podcasts.

While there are many interesting and innovative ideas and features for sports fan engagement apps, the most common ones are: 

  • Team news and updates 
  • Results overview
  • Fixtures
  • Statistics
  • Game analysis
  • Replays
  • Highlights
  • Radio coverage
  • Interactive social media feeds
  • Exclusive content like interviews, podcasts and videos 

Others like Fantasy Leagues and VR may be rising in trendiness, but are not necessarily the first tools to prioritize when initially building an app.

Strategizing Fan Engagement in Sports

Engagement never stops. Even when fans are not in the stadium or when players are giving online interviews, fan engagement platforms are there to keep fans interested.

Strategizing Fan Engagement in Sports - Boosting Sports App Engagement Ideas

Understand fans’ needs. Designing an effective sports fan engagement strategy requires that you understand your fans' demographic, interests, and how they want to interact with each other. For example, when it comes to sports, sharing results and giving more data and statistics allow fans to gain different perspectives on the game they’re following. 

Personalized messaging. Programs and features designed to communicate with everyone often speak to no one. When fans don’t feel included in the conversation, they may not stay interested, or even find a different, more engaging platform. To send personalized and captivating messaging to fans, you must first understand their preferences and appeal to their style of communication.

Support loyalty. Rewarding loyal fans is one of the best ways to show how much you appreciate their commitment to your franchise. Special offers and access to additional services can help create organic content for later use in promotional materials. Most successful stars in sports and entertainment create and maintain a culture that fans can quickly adopt as their own. 

Holistic approach. Thorough consideration and planning in advance are necessary for fan engagement platforms to have better results in the long run. After every concert or sports game, make sure to let fans know what to expect next, and guide them towards the next big event. Push notifications directly link fans, ensuring that everyone stays connected. 

What is Fan Engagement

Building Communities with a Live Chat and Fantasy Leagues

Communities built around celebrities, musicians, and sports players or teams are created through additional engagement. 

Social features, like a chat box, help fans feel more connected and keep them coming back for more related content, such as player updates and leaderboards in the case of sports. Inside a live sports streaming app, fans can have a variety of information available so they are always able to tune in to what is happening. 

Fantasy sports apps are another way to build community engagement for sports and entertainment. Fantasy teams compete in virtual championships and leagues based on the statistical performance of those players in actual games. Fantasy sports range from Fantasy Football drafts to ESPN Fantasy Sports.

Next-Generation Streaming Services

Participation in events can be seen in a variety of interactive forms. Prior to the pandemic, participation was usually bound to physical presence at a concert, sporting event, or conference. Today, fans can participate in many different, yet still meaningful ways.

Streaming content allows audiences to attend and participate in virtually any event remotely, while also having the ability to share their opinions and other relevant information. Audience members feel like they are contributing in a meaningful way by sharing and commenting on the content. 

In Japan, Yamaha developed an app, ‘Remote Cheerer’, that allows fans to cheer for their teams and create a full-stadium atmosphere while watching from the safety of their home. The app enables fans to cheer, chant, clap, and boo from their phones and broadcasts the sounds to stadiums in real-time. Fans are engaged in the streaming content, plus they create an exciting atmosphere for teams playing in nearly-empty stadiums. 

Push Notifications

Quick updates allow fans to know the latest score, see exclusive content, or get breaking news. Such prompts drive traffic and revenue by reminding users your platform exists and is filled with useful and interesting information about events, performers, and teams they care about. 

They also improve the live stream watching experience by making it more immersive. With various topics, fans can be notified and engaged before, during, and after the event, so they don’t miss funny and exciting moments. 

Gamified Event Participation

Many consider gamification to be a silver bullet that solves problems with brand loyalty. When game mechanics are carefully planned and added to a fan engagement app, users often gain a real sense of satisfaction.

Streaming platforms still haven't adopted gaming concepts, but interest is on the rise. Nickelodeon and the NFL recently powered two strands of gamified participation, which encourage live interactions that work similarly to a game; users can earn badges and collect valuable game points.


Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual reality technology is still in its infancy, but sports and other fan engagement apps are beginning to embrace VR and AR, for gamification, mapping tools, marketing, and improved fan experience.. MLB at Bat, NBA AR, and Vikings AR are just a few examples of popular apps that utilize VR and AR to foster fan engagement.

Virtual and augmented reality apps have the potential to allow fans to attend games from their own couch, enhance sporting experiences with special effects, enjoy pregame and half-time entertainment, and even analyze player stats with in-app trackers and computer vision. Enhanced sporting experiences may incentivize fans to virtually attend games which could allow for new types of monetization, such as in-app purchases, sponsorships, and advertisements.

Advanced Analytics

Turning your sports fan engagement app into a revenue stream becomes possible when you understand your fans and can offer services they’re interested in using. Predictive analytics are also helpful in understanding what drives the most traffic, what sponsors ROI statistics, and other valuable data. 

For example, if you know your fans react well to exclusive discounts and coupons, you can create new revenue-driving opportunities with interactive shoppable features in live streams. We recommend using post-event surveys strategically to gather data and feedback from fans to improve your events and fan engagement strategy.

NFTs in Ticketing

Tickets can become NFTs if they are made to be collectible and tradable digital assets. Doing this allows patrons to record the ownership of their tickets in blockchain and trade them online.

For unique festivals, exhibitions, and events, creating tradeable merchandise as NFTs often means higher value and increased interest. Coachella festival decided to offer its fans lifetime passes with their new Coachella Collectible NFTs. The festival partnered with a cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, for this project, and they have built their marketplace on the Solana blockchain. 

Another way artists and organizers can use NFT to add unique value to their events is to create additional video or audio content that appeals to consumers. It's possible to offer exclusive backstage video content, footage, or anything related to the event. 

Year-Round Engagement and Personalization

Year-round engagement and personalization stand at the forefront of creating lasting relationships with ticket buyers. Over 60% of fans say that a great year-round experience would make them more likely to be more engaged with their team in future seasons, with 55% more likely to purchase a ticket at some point in the future. Maintaining communication with customers throughout the year fosters a sense of loyalty and anticipation for upcoming events. Fan engagement in sports cannot be neglected if you want to be a top industry player.

Personalization, fueled by strategic data use, ensures that every interaction feels bespoke and valuable. Crafting experiences that resonate on social media or "Instagrammable Moments", as suggested by industry leaders at INTIX 2024, can leverage digital word-of-mouth, attracting a broader audience.

Catering to Millennials and Gen Z

Attracting and retaining younger audiences, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, requires a nuanced approach that goes beyond traditional engagement strategies. We recommend creating shareable, memorable experiences and leveraging digital channels for communication. Loyalty programs that offer memberships, subscriptions, and community engagement initiatives are key to nurturing a long-term relationship with these demographics. These strategies, focused on digital fan engagement and community building, are essential for cultivating loyalty among younger fans.

Engaging Generation Z: Insights for Sports Clubs

The landscape of fan engagement is evolving rapidly, especially with the rising influence of Generation Z. This demographic, known for its unique digital habits and values, is redefining how sports clubs should approach fan interaction and engagement. For example, nearly 50% of the Gen Z population want to use a second screen while consuming live sports action.

The recent "#GenZChallenge" report sheds light on the preferences and behaviors of Gen Z about football clubs. Understanding these insights is crucial for sports entities looking to foster deeper connections with this influential group. The findings highlight Gen Z's desire for inclusivity, digital interaction, and innovative content, pointing towards a need for sports clubs to adapt their strategies to resonate with this tech-savvy and emotionally invested audience. The key findings of the report are:

  1. Gen Z Engagement: Gen Z highly values being heard and engaged in clubs’ activities, especially through social media interaction.

  2. Balance of Tradition and Inclusivity: Gen Z fans appreciate a balance between tradition and inclusivity in their clubs, suggesting the need for clubs to incorporate these values into their communication strategies.

  3. Match Day Engagement: Match Day remains a highly engaging time for Gen Z fans, with a focus on building relationships during this period.

  4. Family Influence and Dual-Screening: Over 50% of Gen Z fans are introduced to their favorite clubs by family members. Also, a significant percentage (72%) engage in dual-screening, seeking instant updates and additional information from multiple sources while watching matches.

  5. Video Content and Gaming: Video content is crucial for engaging Gen Z fans, who prefer live streaming and exclusive behind-the-scenes content. Gaming is favored over Esports, with a preference for relaxation rather than professional competition.

  6. Social Media Preferences: Gen Z fans are active on social media, with Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter being the most used platforms. The preference for short, audiovisual content is evident.

  7. Emotional and Financial Involvement: Gen Z fans show a high level of emotional involvement with their clubs and are willing to spend on club merchandise and activities.

  8. Diverse Content and Interaction: To maintain Gen Z interest, clubs need to provide diverse content, including videos, match updates, club news, statistics, and humorous content (memes).

  9. Engagement Outside Match Days: There's a need for clubs to find ways to entertain and involve young fans between match days, possibly through loyalty programs, exclusive products, and gamified experiences.

Examples of Fan Engagement

How do you apply a fan engagement strategy? We've gathered cases from big names in the sports industry who've developed enticing fan engagement apps that have successfully created value and provided meaningful interactions between fans and their teams.

The 5th Stand App (Chelsea Football Club)

Chelsea Fan Engagement App Chelsea Fan Engagement App
Chelsea Fan Engagement App Screenshot 3 Chelsea Fan Engagement App Screenshot 4


With over 100 million fans following Chelsea football club worldwide, the club realized how important it is to keep everyone engaged all year round. The 5th Stand mobile app was created to deliver a top-notch football experience to all their fans. 

The Match Centre is a feature devoted to delivering match updates, game analyses, and live audio commentary for every match in the Champion’s League, FA Cup, and Premier League. Fans can also enjoy exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, chat options, and breaking news related to the coaches, managers, and players. 

Flex NBA AR App

The NBA has been considered to be one of the pioneers of fan engagement, and by launching a mixed-reality app, they’ve become one of the first to create an Augmented Reality (AR) app in the sports world. Powered by Apple’s ARKit, the application allows users to shoot hoops and create an NBA-like backboard. Fans can use it to play different games, create a lineup of rising stars and MVPs, play with their favorite teams, and create leaderboards.

With AR Portals, the app allows fans to enter the backstage of every game and immerse themselves in a 360-degree video of their favorite players and teams.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium App (The Atlanta Falcons)

Mercedes-Benz Stadium App Screenshot 1 Mercedes-Benz Stadium App Screenshot 2

What The Future Holds for Fan Engagement in Sports

Big sports and music events are inherently social. The experience of being together with other people with the same interests is what makes events so exciting, and an interactive feature in fan engagement apps allows fans to get a bit of that familiar excitement, even if they are at home watching TV, rather than at a live event. 

More interactive streaming products will undoubtedly play a large role in how people consume streamed sports, gaming, and music content. Increased personalization and gamification transform passive viewers into active audiences. 

The future of fan engagement lies in continuous innovation, embracing new technologies, and adapting to changing audience expectations. By integrating these latest trends into fan engagement practices, the entertainment industry can create more immersive, personalized, and memorable experiences that foster deeper connections with fans.

1. eSports Statistics In 2024 DemandSage
2. Twitch Statistics, Trends & Facts for 2023 CloudWards
3. Creating a dynamic sports experience with in-app fan engagement Amity
4. Metaverse Gaming Fanisko
5. Fan Engagement During A Pandemic Superfan
6. In focus: fan engagement in the US compared to the UK UCFB
7. Fan Engagement in 2020/2021: The Big Picture TFE