I’ll never forget my first CrossFit Regional.
It was the California Regional in Del Mar, only hours away from the birthplace of CrossFit. So many of the top competitors were there, all of us fighting for a select number of coveted spots—the spots in consumer mouths and pantries.
Vendor Village at the Regionals might not be as physically intense as the competition itself, but I still felt both exhilaration and overwhelm while working the EPIC Provisions booth amid the heat and sand. As a passionate member of the CrossFit community even before my food marketing career, I was eager to show up in the best way possible. While I’m still uncertain as to whether or not the new Games format is a change for the better, it certainly gives brands like EPIC more opportunities to support the amazing CrossFit community — which is responsible for a significant amount of our success and growth over the years.
First, we can better support CrossFit at events.
The birth of “Sanctionals” provides twice as many opportunities for brands to engage with the community, and it allows us to do so throughout the year—rather than just during Regionals or the Games.
Events cost money, and that’s something brands are willing to give in exchange for the opportunity to get in front of eyes (and mouths!). The birth of “Sanctionals” provides twice as many opportunities for brands to engage with the community, and it allows us to do so throughout the year—rather than just during Regionals or the Games. It also provides us a larger pool of events to choose from, so that we can find the event that is most relevant to our audience (depending on location, size, sponsored athletes, etc.).
For example, if EPIC already has great presence in grocery stores on the West Coast, our time is better spent at the Mid-Atlantic regional, where people likely are less familiar with our brand. Or while we’d love to support our sponsored athlete (shoutout Brent ‘Bacon’ Fikowski) when competing at his Regional, our resources might be better spent at a different Regional based on other factors listed above. The newly sanctioned season helps us back the events that also support our brand goals.
To compete in this new format, athletes need longer-term, more consistent financial support to train and be ready for events year-round. We’ve all seen (or sadly been) brands that pop in to support athletes through the Open, Regionals, and Games, only to disappear the rest of the year. This new season format forces brands to consider longer-term partnerships with athletes, which are actually better for the brand, the athlete, and the community! Companies spend more time ensuring the chosen athletes really align with the brand values, and athletes have an opportunity to do the same.
We can all agree that we don’t want the sponsorship of CrossFit athletes to look or feel like Nascar. As much as I’d love to see EPIC pork rind tattoos all over the torsos of James Hobart or Brent Fikowski, we always prefer to talk about partnerships vs. sponsorships, which is easier with the new season format.
This new season format forces brands to consider longer-term partnerships with athletes, which are actually better for the brand, the athlete, and the community! Companies spend more time ensuring the chosen athletes really align with the brand values, and athletes have an opportunity to do the same.
Finally, the new Games format allows us to support the new, independent CrossFit media ecosystem that’s risen out of the ashes of CrossFit HQ’s Media Team. EPIC was fortunate enough to have conversations with HQ about official sponsorship, but it never panned out. One reason is that, frankly, we couldn’t afford it. The other was control. We all know, for better or worse, CrossFit HQ and Media are very specific about the look and feel of their media, even branded sponsored content. For a young mission-driven brand like ours, we were reluctant to cede control of how our brand would be leveraged. We wanted to play a larger role in content creation, and were concerned that we wouldn’t have that opportunity. Perhaps those concerns were unfounded, but ultimately the ethos of CrossFit Media intimidated us into believing so.
However, that’s no longer the case with this new ecosystem of media covering the community! With folks like Morning ChalkUp, ArmenHammerTV, Inside Elite Fitness, and Buttery Bros, we can support partners with the confidence that it will be a balanced partnership.
I’m beyond grateful to be a CrossFit community member and to have stumbled into a career where the brand I work on is so intimately tied to it. As an EPIC marketer and a mediocre CrossFitter, I’m excited about the opportunities to better support CrossFit provided by the new Games format. EPIC wouldn’t be where we are without y’all. So thank you, and please continue to support us and all the brands (yes, even our competitors) lucky enough to call CrossFit home.