The Emotion Behind the Olympics: Why We Can’t Look Away (and what your brand can learn from it)

Jul 10, 2024

Every few years, the world unites in a global spectacle unlike any other. The Olympics transcends borders, languages, and even sports themselves, captivating billions of people for weeks on end. There’s something about the Olympics that turns us all into armchair athletes, glued to our screens and emotionally invested in the outcome. But why? Why are we so emotionally attached to sports we might only watch once every quadrennial?

You might relish the universal status structure of “gold, silver, bronze,” not coincidentally the same words used to describe status or tiers in many loyalty programs. Or, you might take comfort and convenience in rooting for your country’s athletes even if you have no idea who they are or know anything about the sport (take Breaking, for example). Or, you might feel kinship and reciprocity with an athlete as part of a fandom. In any case, we can’t help but notice the correlation when it comes to emotionally connecting with the Olympics like we do with our favorite brands.

We’ve highlighted a few things your brand can learn from the Olympics and validated with Kobie’s 2024 Consumer Research to make these actionable recommendations:


The Power of the Plot

The Olympics are a masterclass in storytelling. Think about it: underdog narratives, champions overcoming adversity, nations united in pride.These stories resonate with us on a number of levels. We see ourselves and our own desire to improve when we see athletes overcoming challenges. We feel the raw joy and even meaningfulness that the thrill of victory creates.  We experience that sense of belonging that the Olympics brings to bear – national pride, identity, being a part of something.

Just like the Olympics use stories to build fan loyalty, brands can do the same. But those stories must be authentic to your audience and consider the emotional motivators at play with your consumers.

We learned from our 2024 Consumer Research Study that consumers value authenticity when it comes to loyalty. In fact, when members perceive things as forced or manufactured, that inherit inauthenticity can be to your detriment. For example, when we asked consumers about influencer events, if they were perceived as inauthentic, they had a negative impact on loyalty.

Use authentic storytelling to your advantage and watch the power of the plot unfold.


Connecting through Community

National pride is another powerful driver of loyal Olympic fans. We cheer on our athletes not just for their skill, but because they represent something bigger – our nation, our community. This sense of belonging is a key aspect of emotional loyalty.

Brands can leverage this “connection” factor by fostering a sense of community around their brand. Our research shows that allowing communities of customers to emerge organically will work to drive loyalty in positive ways. Artificially constructed communities won’t.

For loyalty marketing professionals contemplating whether to tap into the power of community, the focus should be first on identifying your customer communities rather than trying to create them, and then giving them a forum to interact in a way that will foster greater loyalty in the long run.

Your program should support community engagement, not force it.


The Stakes of Engagement

The Olympics are inherently dramatic. Every race, every jump, every goal carries the weight of years of training and the hopes of achieving a place on the podium. This high-stakes environment keeps us glued to our screens and invested in the outcome for the duration of the event.

But what happens to our emotional connection once the medals have been won or lost? Do we continue to follow and engage with the Games after the closing ceremonies?

While Kobie doesn’t have the answer to that question, we do know how much engagement in the in-between plays a role in brand loyalty. Much like the race to the finish line, a transaction is a finite moment in time, meaning brands must consider how to engage consumers in between those critical moments to keep the connection alive.

Our research report highlights the top ways brands can unlock engagement in the in-between based on how consumers responded to things like communication preferences, gamification, progress tracking, and more to stay engaged with their favorite loyalty programs.

When the loyalty stakes are high, be sure to engage in-between.


Passing You the Torch

The day-to-day competition for customer loyalty could easily be an Olympic sport. If your brand is ready to play to win, download Kobie’s 2024 Consumer Research, one of the most academic reports in the loyalty field, to learn more.