Years ago back in the early 2000’s CrossFit was an underground counterculture–just a few hundred athletes in some dingy warehouse spaces or garages throwing down hard and finishing workouts in a puddle of their own fluids. These athletes would convene an online forum at a central hub, the CrossFit main site, to share scores and information. As this viral following emerged, new athletes from all places in the world started to join the online forum and share their performances.
Some of these athletes started posting new records and elite performances for some of the benchmark name workouts that were above and beyond what the community thought was possible. These athletes started creating a reputation and became revered. With the swell of participation of these new athletes and their fans, the idea of getting them together to compete was an exciting prospect.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if we could take theses CrossFit superstars from different areas of the world and have them go head to head against each other?” Enter the CrossFit games.
Fast forward years later and now this backyard competition is a professional sport with big name sponsors, endorsements, and national telecasts on ESPN. With this growth, so has the celebrity and earning potential of some athletes rise to the level of athletes from main stream sports.
While first prize at the games is $275,000, for most games athletes, the majority of their athletic income will come from sponsors. What sponsors are looking for is reach and influence and a positive brand message. So what we are seeing are athletes taking an active role in creating a following and brand for who they are and what they represent.
Most of this branding is happening through the internet. Social media provides quantitative data to company as to an athlete’s reach and worth. Games winners like Camille Leblanc Bazinet (@camillebaz) and Rich Froning (@richfroning) have the largest social media followings in the sport. We are also seeing athletes draw followers in using their own websites such as Camille’s website www.clbfitness.com and www.jasonkhalipa.com These site are online business cards with contact info, galleries, training content posts, and athlete products for sale.
Another way athletes are gaining ground is by recruiting agents. Four years ago the idea of a CrossFit athlete having an agent was ridiculous. Now, for any top CrossFit athlete to reach their professional potential it is a must. Agents find and negotiate deals for athletes. They also provide guidance and structure to a business in which they are the product. Camille’s agent is Jason St. Clair, a major league baseball agent and avid CrossFitter who found her by accident in 2012.
“I had people offering me endorsements in 2012, but I had no idea what I should pursue or be asking for,” said Camille. “I thought maybe there was more for me out there that I don’t even know about. Jason said that he was no sure how much there was for me, but if there was something, he would find it. He was excited to be working on a new frontier of something that had not been done before. We created a strategy and goals and since then we have exceeded them every year together. I feel like he is a member of my family and as much a part of my success as anyone.”
It is fascinating to watch the evolution of CrossFit and what will happen as more and more people are drawn to the sport.