Nationwide, there’s an undercurrent of CrossFit affiliates rebranding their facilities away from their affiliate name. Without giving up their affiliation or their love for CrossFit, the phenomenon of gym owners looking to build a brand that stands alone without the CrossFit name seems to be growing.
For some, it could be a fail-safe play for some looming CrossFit Armageddon. For others, there is less of a worry of the end of CrossFit, but a rebrand is an effort to differentiate in a world with 12,000 affiliates and counting. In any case, it’s a phenomenon worth noting, in my opinion.
This, like most marketing, is easier said than done. Things aren’t as simple as spending a handful of years (and a gym’s entire existence) known as Main Street CrossFit only to update its Instagram account to announce a new Main Street Athletics call sign for example. After all, we know that it doesn’t quite stick nearly as well when you give yourself a nickname.
Like virtually everything in business relationships, authenticity goes a long way. Rebranding can be done successfully, but the chances of it going well by simply switching the tags on the building and in ads usually isn’t good. If, for example, a CrossFit gym continues to just do CrossFit with a new name, it seems difficult for the market to get on board with the idea that the gym is anything else than what it originally claimed itself to be. However, some gyms fall into a category where maybe they’re branded as only a CrossFit gym by default, yet their product offering includes more programs and coaching services. In this case, rebranding as an effort to better encapsulate the business could have better traction.
Similarly, if a CrossFit gym looking to rebrand (for whatever reason) wanted the switch to have more teeth than the feeling of, “Hey, we switched the sign out front. We have a new name,” the gym could grow its product offering so such that a new name is presented alongside additions to the core business. This gives a rebrand context. For example, “2nd Street CrossFit is now called 2nd Street School of Movement because we, in fact, offer lots of movement practices, including CrossFit” seems to have purpose.
In our case at Deuce Gym, this was all intentional from the beginning to have a legit CrossFit affiliate, loving and practicing CrossFit, but also a platform large enough to have a bigger strength-and-conditioning conversation. Even without having to change our name, however, we’ve had to create great context as to exactly what the facility is (and what the facility isn’t). We know what we offer and we know what we don’t. It’s been our job to educate via marketing and otherwise as to what we are as a brand.
Unfortunately, I look at a lot of the rebranding that we’re seeing in CrossFit done with the same uninvested level of participation that many people got into opening their gyms in the first place. If the CrossFit brand was all you were banking on to be successful in the first place, you won’t (and, in my opinion, don’t deserve to) be successful. In the same way, if you’re rebranding your gym to exclude the CrossFit name because you think it in and of itself is a business upgrade, I promise you won’t be successful, either.
A brand is a reflection of what you are. Until you actually are what you’re trying to brand, the market will know and the results will be reflected in the bottom line.