What prompts 2.5 million people to follow Charlie Sheen? It can’t be because they expect individual recognition in return.
Why do thousands of people stand outside an Apple store waiting to be one of the first to buy the next iPad? It’s not like even one of them is going to get it free. There is quite literally nothing in it for them beyond being able to say that they were there, near or at the start.
So what’s the motive? I think it’s the thought that this looks too exciting to just be a spectator. They want to share this first-hand. That’s what distinguishes participants from spectators. Proximity. How close they are prepared to get to your brand because of how they feel about it.