Some background.

A few weeks back, we explored CrossFit’s meteoric rise over the past 15 years to become the largest fitness chain in the world. We’re now exploring their international growth specifically.

CrossFit affiliate growth internationally currently outpaces U.S. growth by approximately 14% to 2%. That roughly translates to 1,000 net new affiliates per year internationally compared to 150 in the U.S. This accounts for attrition (AKA closures).

In 2017, there were roughly 6,900 affiliates worldwide. Today, there are 7,853. It was during this growth spurt in 2018 that the number of gyms internationally surpassed the U.S. Today, roughly 48.3% of gyms are U.S. based.

International Growth: Specific Breakdowns

Amassing more than 15,000 affiliates across 162 countries didn’t happen overnight. But CrossFit is seeing explosive growth in a few key markets which is fueling their rapid expansion.

CrossFit in Brazil is exploding, adding approximately 353 new affiliates in 2018. That’s 31%, or nearly one third, of the current gyms in Brazil. Also notable are France, Italy and Spain which added 143, 148, and 118 new affiliates, respectively.

  • Brazil — 353 new affiliates (31% of total)
  • Italy — 148 new affiliates (22%)
  • France — 143 new affiliates (30%)
  • Spain — 118 new affiliates (26%)
  • China — 47 new affiliates (31%)

China, which had about 15 affiliates in 2014, has exploded with a 920% increase in the past four years, adding more than 130 new affiliates.

Analyzing the chart above, it shouldn’t be surprising that the locations of sanctioned events closely mirrors the list of fastest growing markets as well as the top 15 countries. In fact, 14 of the 17 sanctioned events are in the top 15 countries. The only exceptions are Argentina, Iceland and United Arab Emirates.

Furthermore, Greg Glassman’s myriad statements regarding sanctioned events reflect that understanding.

“These new events are a true testament to CrossFit’s global reach,” Glassman said in a recent press release. “Whether athletes are competing in Wollongong, Reykjavík, or Shanghai, they represent the spirit of the CrossFit community—a community that today crosses more borders and contains more languages and cultures than we could have ever imagined at the start.”

It makes sense that CrossFit would want to partner with events in countries with vibrant and growing CrossFit communities.

Affiliate Growth and Open Participation

In the 2017 and 2018 CrossFit Opens, around 82% of all registered affiliates competed. As expected, there was an 11% increase in the number of gyms outside the U.S. participating in the Open.

RX participation grew significantly in both U.S. and international markets: U.S. by 5.9% and international by 18.2%. While there are more affiliates outside the U.S., 54.7% of all RX athletes are registered in the U.S. compared to 45.3% internationally. The difference amounts to 28,690 more RX athletes in the U.S. than abroad.

The short conclusion is that while U.S. affiliate growth has slowed, participation continues to outpace the rest of the world. But given the current growth projections it’s hard to see this lasting for much longer.


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