If you haven’t heard of CrossFit by now, you’re either living in one of the few places in the world that doesn’t have a CrossFit nearby, or you’ve somehow been spared a relationship with an over-zealous CrossFitter who loves to discuss his workouts with anyone who will listen.
The passion for CrossFit is intense.
In just under 15 years, CrossFit has grown from one location in California to 12,000 throughout the world. Each location, known as a “box”, is remarkably simplistic in décor and equipment and incredibly serious in mentality and drive.
After passing a two-day seminar and paying an annual fee, anyone can open a CrossFit box. It doesn’t function like a traditional franchise; there are no rules surrounding the operation of each box. As a company, CrossFit doesn’t operate like most other multi-million dollar businesses, either. CrossFit’s creator, Greg Glassman, is the sole owner, with no board of directors to report to. It’s untraditional, and it’s working (according to Glassman, CrossFit is the fastest growing chain in the world).
Given his non-traditional approach to business and fitness, it is not surprising that Glassman was open to content marketing, marketing’s less traditional approach. The results have been huge.
Glassman explained the effectiveness of CrossFit’s content marketing approach in a recent interview with 60 Minutes’ Sharon Alfonsi:
[VO] At the company’s media office in the Silicon Valley, they publish a different “workout of the day” every day and more information about CrosssFit than you could read in a lifetime.
[Alfonsi] And what does it cost for people to access the stuff that you’re putting online?
[Glassman] There is no cost. It’s free.
[Alfonsi] How does that make sense?
[Glassman] Yeah. It didn’t until we did it. You know, the more video we give away, the more money we make.”
This concept was clearly foreign to Alfonsi, but my ears perked up. To me, it was clearly the sign of content marketing done right.
Be a storyteller
CrossFit’s online publication, the CrossFit Journal, includes a wide variety of fitness and nutrition related articles, but what sets them apart are the real-life stories that are used throughout. The Journal articles look like pages from a print magazine, with large, color photographs supporting the compelling stories of the people featured. This isn’t a publication that is pushing CrossFit membership or ownership; it serves to reinforce the CrossFit brand.
Demonstrate your expertise
Crossfit’s videos serve both their prospective and current members. For prospective members, the videos can answer questions about what CrossFit is and what CrossFit exercises are like. For current members, it can support their training and increase their knowledge. Each video is a reflection of what CrossFit means—as a brand, and as a fitness chain. CrossFit’s YouTube channel has more than 7,000 videos, more than 660,00 subscribers and more than 274,000,000 views.
Expand your offerings
In 2007, CrossFit made a major move—it started the CrossFit Games, a competition to find “the Fittest on Earth™”. The creation of a competition took CrossFit and its athletes to a larger stage, generating buzz inside and outside of the CrossFit community. In 2013, 5,000 athletes competed. That number jumped to 11,000 in 2014. As the CrossFit momentum grows, so does support for its other efforts.
Be true to you
If you watch the 60 Minutes interview with Glassman you might find that he is not what you would expect from a multi-millionaire who is about to be interviewed by a major network. He is wearing a t-shirt and backwards baseball hat, sporting at least a day’s worth of stubble. Yet this unpolished, unsophisticated appearance feels honest. It also seems to align with CrossFit’s stripped-down approach to fitness.
The approach and appearance of both Glassman and his brand have not changed since reaching popularity. CrossFit boxes are as plain as they ever were, because that bare bones approach to fitness is core to the brand.
CrossFit itself is divisive; people either love it or they hate it. But you don’t have to be a fan to admire the way they have used content marketing to help support and grow their brand to a multi-million dollar worldwide phenomenon.
Check out our collection of content marketing case studies for more forward-thinking, big-impact stories.