What is Monster Doing at the CrossFit Games?

July 29, 2021 by
Credit: Athlete’s Eye Photography
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A giant Monster Energy Ultra banner adorns the stands in the Coliseum in the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI, a move that has raised eyebrows among fans, affiliates, some of CrossFit’s own staff, and The CrossFit Book Instagram account. While the advertised product is a zero sugar beverage, Monster’s flagship product is the type of high sugar energy drink CrossFit has long told its members to stay away from. 

Why it matters: Monster Beverage Corporation is also partially owned by the Coca-Cola Company, notoriously an adversary of CrossFit LLC, and arguably the community’s health ethos at large.

  • More specifically, in an effort to expand their portfolio, the Coca-Cola Company bought a 16.7 percent stake for $2.15 billion in Monster Beverage Corporation in 2015, a stake that has since grown to 19.36 percent. 

Remind Me: For years, as part of his “elegant solution to the world’s most vexing problem,” former CrossFit LLC owner, Greg Glassman went to battle against Big Soda, meanwhile “Why You Should Worry About Coca-Cola More Than Opioids” became a near slogan of the company.

  • One of Glassman’s major goals was to get big soda out of academic research. In 2016, Glassman even spoke on Capitol Hill urging Congress to stop soda companies from influencing medical research.
  • As a writer at the CrossFit Journal at the time, my mission was simple: To write stories that expose the health dangers of drinking soda, and to investigate how academic research funded by companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, have arguably led to heavily biased and unreliable health guidelines that people blindly accept, such as sugary drinks like Gatorade (owned by PepsiCo) are a solid hydration choice. As a journalist, it felt like an altruistic mission.
  • CrossFit’s own website still lists their battles with Coca-Cola, depicting them as being in the service of their Affiliates. 

What’s CrossFit saying? CrossFit’s General Manager of Sport Dave Castro, who was long a part of Glassman’s war against Big Soda, told the Morning Chalk Up they’re excited about the partnership with Monster.

  • “As the CrossFit Games continue to expand, we’re delighted to work with new companies to help grow our sport. We’re excited to work with Monster’s sugar-free line, and we will continue to look for ways to create more opportunities for our athletes, events, and fans worldwide,” Castro said. 
  • Castro pointed out that the cans being handed out to athletes are filled with water and not a Monster beverage. 

How’s it playing out: Privately a number of affiliate owners expressed disappointment in doing business with a company whose products are at odds with CrossFit’s health message. 

  • “How the f*** am I supposed to defend CrossFit’s view of health now? How am I supposed to explain to my clients that refined sugar is the cause of chronic diseases pandemic the world suffers from if CrossFit Inc. signs a fucking contract with The Coca-Cola Company?” wrote CrossFit Wind la Seu d’Urgell on Instagram.
  • “This is a sad day,” commented CrossFit Livermore’s owner Matthew Souza. 
  • “I was really disappointed,” said one long-time CrossFit Games event volunteer who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. 

It’s worth noting that in 2008, one of the CrossFit Games’ sponsors was Panda Express, a company that you could also argue is diametrically opposed to CrossFit’s health ethos. 

Glassman weighs in, sort of: The Instagram account that launched to promote the new book coming out on Glassman was quick to point out the irony of the situation in two Instagram posts, both quoting Glassman for the upcoming book:

  • “You all know who owns Monster Drinks, right?” said one post next to a picture of the Monster Energy banner in the Coliseum. Another post featured a picture of the snacks in the affiliate lounge in Madison, along with words from Glassman that can only be interpreted as him suggesting CrossFit of selling out by offering affiliate owners chips and pretzels, compared to the healthier, more decadent food he used to serve at the Games.
  • “Most people have no idea how expensive the Games were. We lost money almost every year and it did little to drive people into the affiliates…We spent $75,000 a day on food for the affiliate lounge alone! We had five chefs, prime rib, beer…it was amazing. But you know what, that is where every single dollar we made came from, from the affiliates, so of course we went all out…Enjoy your chips and pretzels,” Glassman was quoted saying on The CrossFit Book’s post.

One last thing: While it might not technically be a category competitor, the sponsorship does appear at odds with CrossFit’s long standing official partnership with FITAID, a CrossFit endemic recovery beverage that’s widely available nationwide in CrossFit boxes. 

  • FITAID has been an official Games sponsor since 2017.
  • “Just as elite athletes compete on the field, we compete for stomach share in gyms and stores so we’re not afraid of a little competition. Fitaid was created by (CrossFit athletes for CrossFit athletes) and we remain humbled that athletes continue to choose us as their drink of choice over the last decade and will continue to do so regardless of the outside competition,” said co-founder and President of FITAID Aaron Hinde.

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