Sunday, August 3, 2014

Crossfit vs. crossfit

So my former Crossfit Gym-mate and  FB friend Dennis O'Donnell wrote his opinion on the topic of the Trademark that is CrossFit and why he thinks it has and will continue more so to become part of the vernacular, thus making the trademark invalid. Example: "What are you doing for a workout today?", "Oh, I'm gonna do some crossfit." Does this mean you are going to a CrossFit gym and WODing or simply doing a crossfit-gym-like workout at the park?  You can find that here and I highly recommend you read this first. It was responded to by a Russell Berger, of CrossFit Higher ups in quick fashion and what seemed to be an immediate knee-jerk reaction to a google alert about ignorance of the term CrossFit. Google him and you'll notice his process of telling people why they are wrong about Crossfit, which is not necessarily a wrong thing to do in his case although some may not like it.

Let's put things in perspective. I don't have an agenda. This is my reflection as a former consumer and current alumnus for lack of a better word of the brand. I'm an outside observer at this point that was at one point emerged in CrossFit. That being said, I like CrossFit. It has done amazing things to get people, myself included, motivated about fitness and actually achieve much higher goals then they ever could have over many areas of fitness they would never have touched. I'm much higher on the fitness learning curve of fitness because of it. I just watched the Games with great enthusiasm. I support the gyms/ some trainers in my area, CrossFit or not.  I write this as an "owner" (and I say that because I own my house) of a personal garage gym that started as a bit of a joke: CF Chickentown (which stands for Cross-training Fitness Chickentown) I don't train anyone. I make no representation to do CrossFit or crossfit-like workouts. In fact it's where I park my car at night. It's literally my garage. There are no members. I charge no fee when friends come to workout. I use it as a means to stay involved in the fitness community in my area. This local community is not exclusive to but does contain some CrossFit gym members. This allows me to have some fitness fun and most importantly raise a crap ton of money for wounded and transitioning veterans. Do I make money on this effort? Absolutely not. I would say if anything my stupid little tongue-in-cheek creation would be officially classified as an anti-profit operation to my income statement.

But I digress back to the question; CrossFit vs. crossfit. While I think Dennis makes great points, in the long run I'm gonna have to disagree with him on this. CrossFit is a brand. The name has value. It has brought 10,000 gyms to open up under its auspices. The fact that people simply call crossfit-like workouts CrossFit can and has been argued as have many other trademark issues in the past. I'll go back to a classic marketing 101 case. Rollerblade vs. in-line skating.  Rollerblade was not the first player to the market for inline skates, they were however by far the best at getting it out there. They exploded over a few years. The argument was,  are you Rollerblading or in-line skating on Rollerblade brand skates?  To this day Rollerblade is a defensible trademark. I don't think its much different here. Are you crossfitting or functionally working out with constantly varied movements across many modal domains, in a CrossFit Gym? If you are in a CrossFit gym, yes, you are CrossFitting. If outside a CrossFit branded gym technically no. That won't stop people from saying they are doing crossfit outside of the system. Especially since Rollerblading and In-line skating on Rollerblades is much more succinct then the CrossFit vs. CVM example above.  There are many examples of this. Kleenex is another simplified standout. Do you need a Kleenex or a Kleenex brand tissue? Kleenex, a widely used term for facial tissue is still a major brand. As long as it's not used to your personal benefit outside of the system you're good. It's free advertising for them. No one can blame them for defending something they built. Its a tight line to walk.

The other discussion I see revolves around  the availably of the brand. As in when there is an event that is not a CrossFit sanctioned event but the workouts performed could and are the same that are done in CrossFit gyms everyday. It seems CrossFit keeps the brand very close to heart. I'm not, nor have I researched a sanctioning method for an event. It could exist. I don't know. Are you technically having a CrossFit competition if HQ didn't approve of it? No, you are not. I liken this to any other event. My rugby team has held a tournament every year for 40 years. We as a team are part of the USA Rugby Umbrella because we register as a team, individual players and coaches.  But because we don't comply with the quite honestly unenforceable regulations they require we don't have a USA RUGBY sanctioned event, but we still do play rugby and a lot of it. My point, brand can carry clout which is worth something. Value in name points to a brand.  

Now there are several issues I do have with the CrossFit brand itself. Most of these I'll leave to myself as my humble opinion is not a tenable position to those entrenched in the brand and quite frankly I don't want to have the argument. Also I don't preach against something that in it's totallity is in fact doing good.  Simply, I'm an established financial advisor not a pro trainer and wouldn't expect my CrossFit coach to answer how to road map a retirement income plan. I will say however that responses from higher -ups in the CrossFit community i.e. Dennis' blog post seem extreme but then again I can't blame them for defending their brand. Regardless of this fact it still does wreak of douchbaggery to some. It's the all powerful "Universal Catholic Church" and the Reformation all over again.  Not to invoke too much parallelism because there is an obvious difference in scope of the two arguments, but when you build a powerful brand, there will be a Martin Luther, John Calvin and Henry the VIII who come along and take away from that brand and create there own, i.e Protestantism.  It's still leaves your brand perfectly viable and popular but not without the need to defend it to the death. Now attacking people who are believers in the system who might have a few issues with the it, claiming that they are ignorant of the system is probably not the popular way to go. It could backfire and cause more people to stray.  It does however show the narrow line that must be walked when your brand is under attack.  Frankly should an admirable trait in a capitalistic society. It's how this whole thing works.

Having both sides of the equation is why this is a great country. You can buy in 100%,  criticize but accept it, try to change it, leave it or attack it. If you build something you better defend it because someone will probably come up with something good enough to market that seems better what you have. It's not a matter of, "Is CrossFit good or bad," and "What other thing is good or bad or better." It is, "Does CrossFit have a right to it's name as a brand." I'd say unequivocally so.