CrossFit Games

Eric Roza’s Lofty Open Goal, The Path To 500,000

November 18, 2020 by
Photo: CrossFit LLC
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During his first few months at the helm of CrossFit, Eric Roza has repeatedly stated that his goal for the 2021 CrossFit Games Open is to get registration to the 500,000 mark. Breaking the half-million participant threshold would be a record, and one that seemed unavoidable a few years ago, but sweeping changes to the sport under former owner Greg Glassman has left the Open malnourished after once being a powerful participatory genesis to the season. 

2020 is barreling towards its contentious denouement which means soon we’ll have the 2021 season structure in hand. Preparations will be underway for the pandemic-tinged sequel that the CrossFit Games team will tackle head-on with information gleaned from the end of last season, but the question still remains.

How does CrossFit get the Open back on track?

For starters, promotion needs to start as soon as possible. Even though CrossFit did not have a specified marketing department in the past, there was a select group of individuals dedicated to promotions and marketing within the framework of the CrossFit Games media team.

  • After the Games concluded in August, focus turned to other events like the Team Series, Lift-Off, and the Invitational, which were typically concluded by early November prior to the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. 
  • The end of the Invitational broadcast always included Open promotion, and from early November onward, most of the creative energy for the Games in-house media team was solely focused on promoting and driving excitement for the Open. 

2018 at a glance: The 2018 Open was the peak in terms of participation across the board where 429,157 athletes registered and logged a score in the Open that year. It’s a sharp contrast to the 239,106 registered athletes for the 2020 Open which represents a 44.3% decrease in a 20-month span.

  • Better with age: One of the important components of the 2018’s record turnout was the growing contingency of age group athletes that competed following improvements to their season, including the creation of the 35-39 year-old division and expansions in the teenage divisions. 
  • Age group athletes accounted for 46.2% of all athletes in 2018 meaning that over 198,000 masters and teenage division athletes registered for the Open that season alone. 
  • It’s a cohort that has largely been put on the backburner in recent years with cuts to the competitive field at the Games despite representing a large portion of the competitive field and bringing nearly four million dollars worth of revenue in Open registration alone.

International focus was also a hallmark of 2018 with a realignment of regionals and regions giving more opportunities to areas that were seeing significant growth down at the affiliate level.

  • Latin America and Europe were both given new Regional competitions and in turn represented a whopping 27.3% of the total registration for the Open that season.

The season plan for 2021 accounting for these factors will be key considering that there is a renewed sense of optimism and excitement around the new leadership group but given the turmoil that was the impetus for the transfer of power, many are still proceeding with caution.

  • The Open represents a big opportunity for the new team to showcase their plans for and execution of a new era of the sport under unprecedented circumstances with many affiliates and community currently under the weight of new or impending restrictions due to COVID.
  • Affiliates first: That’s the mantra Roza has repeated during multiple media appearances, and the Open is a prime opportunity to act on that mantra, as affiliates during the growth years were on the front lines of facilitating an Open experience at the individual level that was both exciting and worth repeating year after year.

The status of many affiliates come February is still in question, and there will likely be a broad spectrum of situations relative to local pandemic-related restrictions.

Even if 500,000 is out of reach there is a great chance for the sport to reclaim some momentum in 2021 starting with the CrossFit Games Open and replenishing the global sense of community that was paramount just a few years ago. 

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