Image Credit: Athlete’s Eye Photography
Today CrossFit HQ sent out a correspondence explaining that for the first time in over a decade there will be an increase to affiliate fees. They identified affiliates as the lifeblood of CrossFit and expressed gratitude for their continued commitment. They also reiterated their goals of growing to 30 million members by 2030. And they cite that inflation has risen by about 74% over the last 11 years.
The exact details of what and why can be found in many places, but after having the chance to talk to Don Faul last night, I’d prefer to focus on the question in the title of whether or not this is a bad thing.
Inflation is a Real Thing
There are two specific experiences I’ve had which came to mind when I found out about this. The first is when I was working at an affiliate that raised prices for the first time in a long time. An email was drafted, reviewed, thought over, and then sent out to the clientele. A majority didn’t have any issue with it and understood that over a period of time costs have gone up and that it was probably overdue anyway. A few members communicated that the increase put them in a difficult spot financially to which the owners had personal conversations with them and sought out solutions that could work in both the short and long run for both parties. And, as will almost always be the case, a very small number of people left the gym.
The second was when my friend Chase Ingraham first communicated to me that he was likely going to have to close down his long running affiliate to take a position with CrossFit in which he’d have a chance to have a similar impact, but instead of on dozens to a hundred members, on dozens to a hundred affiliates.
Really, it’s those two things in tandem that create the narrative for me. In the same way a long standing affiliate will inevitably have to raise prices at some point, so should the governing body who oversees them. And at a very baseline level, I believe most people will understand this is not a bad thing, it’s the natural course of things.
How is the Global Nature of the Impact Being Accounted For?
My biggest concerns with the initial press release draft I saw was that it didn’t mention how much the increase was, nor if there was a variable increase depending on where each affiliate happened to be (continent, country, state, city, etc) because the economic reality across the world is extremely different depending upon where you live.
In conversation with Faul he explained to us that there would in fact be variable rates, that each affiliate owner would receive that information on a case by case basis (personally), and that in some cases the rates would actually be decreasing.
If that is indeed the case, and if it’s carried out in a way that truly corresponds to the economic realities in each part of the world, I am very pleased by that. As part of the traveling I’ve done over the last several years, and especially this year, for CrossFit competitions, I’ve had some opportunity to speak with affiliate owners, competition organizers, and even members from affiliates who have provided insights into the variable economic conditions in their part of the world. With the simple example of monthly membership rates, I’ve heard of them ranging from what equates to $40 a month on the low end to $450 a month on the high end. Clearly on the extremes there need to be considerations for how decisions like this impact different markets, and it seems CrossFit has taken that into account.
Is This in Line With Their Stated Purposes?
As included in today’s correspondence, there are three key areas of focus CrossFit outlines as having the intent to invest in: growth, quality, tools and support. Basically, these are the justifications for the price increase with regards to what the affiliates get out of it in terms of value going forward.
A word that gets thrown around a lot, and one that behind intent to heavily invest in “technology, personnel, and marketing” leaves some room for questions. Personally I’d like to more tangible information, examples from the past perhaps, or expectations for the future which would make me feel better about this one.
The gist here is that beginning in 2024 affiliate owners must obtain (if they don’t already have it) their Level 2 certification. A nice feature is the inclusion of a $500 credit to apply toward an L1 or L2 for the owner or a coach on staff at each affiliate. But at a broader level, my understanding of the L1 versus the L2 is that the L1 is for everyone, and the L2 is for coaches (meaning people who are actually coaching on a regular basis- forgive me if that is not in line with CrossFit’s official vernacular about who can call themself a coach).
What I’d love to see here is a marketing campaign that identifies the differences between the L1 and L2, highlighting both the fact that affiliate owners can, and probably should be, encouraging members (especially long time members) to take the level 1 at some point, and two that if you own an affiliate or coach, you should have a desire to take the level 2, not feel like you’re being forced into it.
Tools and Support
The most tangible answer to the unavoidable questions of what am I getting out of this? They mention further investment in CAP (affiliate programming), and additional expansion of “field support, business coaching, regional summits, and other opportunities to learn and share success stories”.
Included in this section, but different than those other concepts, is the opportunity for monthly payment options with no additional fees.
The flexible payment plan is a great thing that I’m sure will be critical for some affiliates. The rest of it, similarly to the growth, lacks a little substance to me and is something I hope they will expound upon.
The FAQ Page and Town Halls
The last thing I want to highlight from this announcement is that there are resources being provided by CrossFit for more information and interaction. I would encourage you, if you are affected by this financially, emotionally, or otherwise, to entertain those before jumping to conclusions. Read through the FAQs and see if some of your questions or concerns are already addressed there, and attempt to be involved in one of the town hall meetings which are scheduled for 12/1 (Friday) and 12/4 (next Monday).
If you can’t make those, my hope is that CrossFit will record them and make them available after the fact. This sort of thing is something the community has been asking for over a period of years now. It was being offered for a period of time, and I hope we can get back to having these on a somewhat more regular basis, and not uniquely on the back of big news like this.
So, Is Raising Affiliates Fees a Bad Thing?
As a blanket statement I’d have to say no. However, and as always, there are good and bad ways to communicate and execute on a decision like this. From what I’ve seen so far there is more good than bad in this regard, but also still an opportunity, depending on future action, to solidify this decision in a way that makes people feel better about it over time.