Going The Distance: Why Does My Brain Love Rocky?

Going The Distance: Why Does My Brain Love Rocky?

Posted at 08:00h in storytelling, Brand by Sudhir Kumar

The BELL RINGS for the 15th and final round. They look like they’ve been in a war these two. 

Apollo feints and Rocky falls for it.  The Champion unleashes a lethal blow to the side of the head that jolts Rocky's mouthpiece into the second row... Rocky sags against the ropes in a crucified position... The insane crowd leaps to their feet.


Rocky's bloody teeth snarl at Apollo, and he waves him to come ahead and fight toe to toe... Apollo obliges with a weary but effective burst of rights and lefts that have K.O. written on every punch.  Rocky counters the assault blow for blow.


               Gimme ya best!!!!

Mickey looks at the clock... TEN SECONDS TO GO.



               Gimme ya best!!!

Blood sprays over the ropes and onto the ringside photographers... They are horrified and wipe away the blood.

The fighters stand toe to toe and drag every remaining bit of strength from their souls and beat each other without mercy.  They look hypnotized and have entered a dimension far beyond blood and pain.








The BELL RINGS... The arena EXPLODES with thunderous approval.

– – – – – – – – – – –

Now, if you haven’t have guessed the above is the closing scene from Rocky, the story of a washed-up boxer from Philadelphia given the chance to fight the heavyweight champion of the world. This film, for me, symbolises never giving up and proving your dreams can come true if you put the work in, all you need is a good heart and determination.

So, why does my brain love this film so much? Why does it still motivate me today? Why when I listen to the soundtrack can I remember scenes and it makes my hair stand up? Why is the Rocky soundtrack on my gym playlist?

First off, it’s a story and we as humans love stories, be it books, cinema, music or a good chin wag down your local. Stories don’t just active the left side of our brain, which is the language processing elements but also the right side of our brain, so we experience the feelings, emotions and physical reactions from the story. This in return is one of the reasons why stories are remembered, because they are personal, emotionally compelling and engage more of the brain. This answers many of the questions I raised earlier, but wait; there’s more…


Rocky not only captured my attention but it also managed to hold it. How? By increasing the tension throughout the story. The build-up is great, the emotion portrayed about self-doubt and being an underdog are cast aside, and we begin to believe as he starts to train and the famous music kicks in (Gonna fly now) you know it!

When you maintain attention, the brain produces symptoms that cause the heart and breathing to speed up, stress hormones are released, and focus is at its highest. Once focus is at its highest, we begin to emotionally resonate with the story and characters. This has often been called ‘transportation’ where we feel as though we are part of the story.


There is a lot of emotion in this film, and I personally relate to Rocky, as I feel he carries many values and traits that I can relate to. So, instantly this emotional connection is the foundation for empathy, which allows us to form connections, bounds and beliefs quickly.

Why? Because as humans we naturally form bounds and groups based upon common beliefs and understandings. How many of you are part of a group or team outside of your careers? Yep there you go. Rocky has a never-give-up attitude and all he wants to do is go the distance, he is not focused on money or glory, but going the distance, going as far as he can, mentally and physically pushing himself. It’s that vision, drive and motivation that makes me love this character.


Now, I’ve watched this film so many times and the others in the saga (I pity the fool), and you always learn something new from different scenes of dialogues. As Rocky has a dramatic structure, you see him overcome the difficulties by digging deep and then the final bell sounds. He has done it, he has gone the distance, he is not bothered about the result or anything else, the climax has occurred, and this is the perfect time to leave a message behind for the audience to learn from. In this case for me it’s never give up on your dreams, and hard work beats talent


I’ve been a big fan of this film and the character since I was 5, so you can say I pretty much grew up with Rocky and have loved it ever since. But the question is why? Well, stories can motivate us, and this was definitely the case with me. This film motivated me to go through a body transformation in the early 2000’s and through my professional career to stay grounded and to put in the work.

Stories use empathy which can have a big influence on our brains to take action, step out of our comfort zones and change our behaviours for the positive. How many of you wanted to hit the bag after watching Rocky? Go for a run? Or anything fitness related? How many of you have the soundtrack on your playlist?

Final Word

Hopefully, you can see why my brain loves Rocky and how stories can be used to influence our behaviour as humans. Remember ‘it ain’t over till it’s over.’

Blog Originally posted on Brand Quarterly

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