Open Registration Lags, But Improvement From 2020 Within Reach

February 11, 2021 by
Image Credit: CrossFit LLC
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The 2021 CrossFit Games Open is officially less than a month away and the number on everyone’s minds is the final tally of registered athletes. 

Open registration has typically been the gold standard metric for interest and participation in the sport and the declining numbers over the past two seasons are a pressing trend that the new leadership group has publicly stated they hope to reverse in a big way. 

The Morning Chalk Up’s calculation places registration at 65,782 athletes as of Wednesday night. Despite a massive, pandemic shaped obstacle, CrossFit has made important steps to improve inclusivity and open avenues of competition for a wider swath of athletes.

  • CrossFit added 16 adaptive athlete divisions (eight each for male and female) for the 2021 Open making it the first time that adaptive athletes will be able to formally compete in the kick off to the season under proper classification since the Open’s inception.
  • A “foundations,” and “at-home,” division of the Open was also added to provide more scaling options and versions of the Open that could be accessible to newer athletes and competitors still limited by the pandemic restrictions.

Even still, with a month to go the total numbers from the Open are somewhat lacking, and a serious improvement in daily and weekly sign up rates will be needed for CrossFit to get back on the growth track.

  • The weekly increase of athletes was 11,692 spanning most recently from February 2 through February 9. 
  • The daily increase of athletes  was 1,894 from February 9 to February 10, which represents a slight uptick from the daily average of the previous week. 
  • With 28 days remaining before the 21.1 announcement, it places the estimated total registration number at 118,814 if the daily registration rate remains constant throughout. 

Looking on the bright side it is almost guaranteed that the daily rate will increase dramatically, as has been the trend of every year of the Open so far. Procrastination compounded by the uptick in media output as the Open draws near usually sees daily rates increase ten-fold. It’s also worth noting that some athletes wait to see what the first workout of the Open is before signing up.

  • Upwards of 30,000 athletes registered in a single day following the first Open announcement in 2019. A total of 77,000 athletes signed up in the time between the announcement and the close of the leaderboard for 19.1. 

Half a million or bust: Back in November, CrossFit’s owner and CEO Eric Roza stated that his goal for the Open would be to get registration up to 500,000 sometime in the near future. A more tangible goal at this point given the current state of affairs would be to eclipse the 2020 Open numbers with hopes of surpassing 2019 as well. 

  • 2020’s registration closed at 239,106 which would require a weekly average of 43,331 added registrants, and a daily average of 6,190 registrants representing just over a three-fold increase in the current rate to hit the mark by the first Open announcement.
  • 2019’s registration closed at 358,646 which would require a weekly average of 73,216 added registrants, and a daily average of 10,459 registrations which is 5.5 times the current rate to hit the mark before the announcement of 21.1

The numbers place an improvement on 2020’s numbers as a more attainable goal, and for the sake of optimism, the path to getting back on the growth track and surpassing last year’s Open registration mark using previous trends and numbers to map accordingly is as follows.

  • The 2020 registration numbers were a 33.3% decrease from 2019. Applying that percentage adjustment to the 77,000 athletes that registered in 2019 after the initial open announcement (assuming the decrease applied evenly across the board), we get 51,359 athletes that followed suit in 2020. 
  • If we’re to assume 2021 will be at or above that, then factoring in those 51,359 athletes now it places the current total of assumed registered athletes (including the current actual number) at 117,141.
  • That leaves 121,965 athletes that need to sign up between now and the 21.1 announcement which equates to a daily average of 4,356 added registrants, which is roughly 2.3 times the current rate. 

Andrew Weinstein, Head of Communications and Public Policy for CrossFit, shed some light on the company’s current approach to garnering support for the Open, and steps they’re taking to return the Open to the growing global phenomena it once was. 

  • Weinstein: “The Open is an iconic annual event for hundreds of thousands of CrossFit athletes, and this year it will serve as a touchstone moment in bringing the community back together and energizing them for the future after an incredibly difficult year.
    • “Eric (Roza) first set an aspirational goal of 500,000 participants nearly six months ago, and a lot has changed since then, so we’ve recalibrated this year’s target, but we are still aiming for that level of participation and much higher in future years.”
  • “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we are driving hard to get as many people as possible taking part in this year’s Open. To achieve that, we’ve made it the most accessible Open in history, with both in-gym and at-home options ranging from Rx to scaled, foundations, and equipment-free. We’ve added a new adaptive athlete division, a continent-based qualifying system that will increase global access to the season, and a quarterfinals that will allow the top 10% of athletes and 25% of teams from each continent to advance.
  • “Tactically, we’re working with our affiliates around the world to help them promote the Open with customizable content, digital toolkits, best practices, tips, and ideas. We’re translating promotional materials into local languages in every major CrossFit market, and we’re creating special content and information for our masters, teenage, and adaptive athletes. We’ve also relaunched the Games media team with new weekly streaming shows, and we will be hosting live Open Announcements again to kick off each weekend.
  • This is also the first Open that we’ve promoted with paid advertising, as we’re trying to make sure that we reach as many potential participants as possible across every channel from direct communication in their gyms to email, social, streaming, websites, articles, and word-of-mouth.In short, while there are definitely headwinds, we believe the Open will be the kickoff for a incredible new era for CrossFit, and we want as many people as possible to be part of it.”

Needing the average daily rate of sign-ups to more than double in the final month is actually a very encouraging goal for CrossFit, and the trends of registration have seen similar if not bigger increases reliably each season. This still assumes a significant wave of late sign-ups after the announcement and puts the onus on Dave Castro to program something that is approachable but appropriate. 

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