A Letter to Affiliate Owners: Rebranding Presents a Great Opportunity

Wendy Shafranski helps a client at VeroStrength.

It’s not breaking news that gyms are leaving their CrossFit affiliation behind or deciding if they should cut ties. Regardless what gym owners ultimately decide to do, I strongly suggest looking into rebranding your gym for reasons I will explain below. While many owners feel shocked, scared and not quite sure what direction to go, I speak from experience in saying creating your own brand presents an opportunity to thrive. It also entails so much more than a name change and a new URL. Its success also hinges on developing your own unique program. 

I am not a CrossFit hater. I fell in love with CrossFit in 2007 and opened a CrossFit gym in January 2009. I competed at the Regional level. I defended the brand in the early days. But over the years our program evolved and diversified, and it looked very different from the typical CrossFit gym.

In 2016, I decided to rebrand, shaking the CrossFit name — while retaining our affiliation — as our business was more than that. I wanted a name that encompassed everything we did in our gym, in hopes of attracting more clients. It worked. I took total control of my own unique brand, marketed our own flavor of programming and was able to appeal to a wider audience. 

So, why am I a fan of standing alone? 

Brand Control 

How many of these following situations have you experienced: 

  • Being lumped into the “all CrossFit gyms are the same” thought process by prospective members.
  • Apologizing for a lack of professionalism, injuries and/or haphazard programming of other CrossFit gyms. 
  • Constantly explaining why your CrossFit gym is different. 
  • Being frustrated when a gym opens up a few miles from you with “CrossFit” in their name. 
  • Feeling you have to charge a lower fee than you deserve because it’s the going rate for area CrossFit gyms. 

By creating your own brand, these pain points eventually disappear. It doesn’t happen immediately, but with hard work, ingenuity and precise communication, you will benefit from establishing your own brand reputation. 

Diversified Programming and Coaching 

If “CrossFit” is in your name, then that’s what you are — a CrossFit gym. Without that name, you can capitalize on a variety of different training options. We rebranded because CrossFit was only one small part of what we offered. CrossFit is random. We designed specific program phases/cycles. 

We didn’t stick to the “lift plus Metcon” format seen in so many CrossFit gyms. CrossFit popularized mixed modality/concurrent training, but they didn’t invent it. It’s a great tool when used in effective doses. CrossFit appeals to many because it’s considered “fun.” Creating workouts that are effective and appealing is an art form. 

Coaching becomes much more effective when you aren’t constantly going for time. Cueing someone under the stress of the clock rarely works. Slowing down and prioritizing good movement allows you to make more of an impact. 

Develop your brand around your own style of programming. Educate yourself on other training concepts, test them, slow down and use the best training methods that will help your members reach their goals. By doing this, you will start to be regarded for your own brand of intelligent, safe, progressive and effective coaching and programming in your community. And that feels really darn good.

Audience Appeal 

For me, all of the preconceived notions about CrossFit negatively affected our reach. The general public thinks of CrossFit as an extreme sport. The word “dangerous” comes up often. Social media is ripe with images and videos of heavy weights, ripped hands, shirtless dudes and high-level gymnastics. This limits your potential audience. 

Dropping “CrossFit” from our name and using Metcons as a minor portion of our program allowed us to reach a wider prospective audience and, in turn, gain more memberships. 

Eventually, higher ticket services like personals, small group training and sports performance took our revenue to the next level. 

When we think of our perfect member, it’s one who is educated, established, coachable and wants to train for health and wellness. Becoming our own brand and creating our own programming allowed us to appeal to that person. Trust me, people will start to seek you out for your name and training beyond CrossFit. This is evidenced by our search engine stats. “CrossFit” and “CrossFit near me” rank very low in our website traffic referrals. 

Intelligent Marketing

Establishing your brand is more than changing your logo. Social media, advertising and marketing should center around educating your audience. Speak locally about a variety of health-related topics, none of them glamorizing intensity. Your blog posts and newsletter should communicate your next training phase and its intent. You must constantly convey the how and the why, showing clients the work on the backend that goes into a well-thought-out, intelligent program. 

When marketing, show beautiful images of members performing technically sound, simple movements. Lead with professionalism. Nix images of chaotic group classes and focus on individuals of different ages and ethnicities. Stop posting ugly, first muscle-ups and dangerous-looking lifting PRs. These are doing nothing for your business and your reputation as a leader in the fitness space.

Within your gym, set expectations. There is all too often a “do this” without a “why.” Your community is already there; continue to nurture and expand it. 

Rebranding gives you the opportunity to be regarded as a great coach, not just a CrossFit Coach. This will open the door for more opportunities for you to make an impact in your community, while also increasing your bottom line. The road to greatness is never comfortable. Let this time inspire you to innovate and be better. If you need help with rebranding or implementing diverse programming for clients, there are companies that can help you move forward in the right direction. 

Wendy Shafranski of VeroStrength

Wendy Shafranski is an entrepreneur, marketing expert, owner of Vero Strength + Conditioning, and co-founder of Structure Training Systems. Wendy had great success rebranding Vero Strength + Conditioning after implementing new programming to accommodate a diverse membership and attract new clients. She saw there was a need for better, tailored programming and started Structure Training Systems to supports gym owners with programming so they could better retain customers. She can be reached at contact@verostrength.com.