I’m sure many of you have seen the recent TV ads from Reebok CrossFit, and some of the YouTube videos as well. Personally, I’m prepping for the backlash, and so I thought I’d put my opinion out there in advance. Before I do, I will say that the Fitness Lonnie parody is quite amusing and I hope represents the thoughts of many on this subject.
I dislike this campaign and think it will be a setback in the CrossFit community’s integration with mainstream single-sport and multi-sport athletes. There are so many other directions that would have conveyed a positive and inclusive image of the CrossFit community that could have been pursued. I am disappointed.
As a side note, I find it interesting that they chose the gym-in-a-container approach. I know that FISA had a program a few years back in which they created a boathouse-in-a-box concept that could be drop-shipped to nascent rowing programs in developing countries, and it’s interesting to see that same concept here. I think it would have been better to helicopter it in to a underserved neighborhood in NYC and have the CrossFit champions teach the kids how do to a bodyweight WOD in any city park. That would have been cool and uplifting.
I was attracted to CrossFit by three things, and this campaign goes squarely against all of them:
1. The concept of “virtuosity” and “learning new sports.” This campaign seems to define CrossFit as its own “sport” based on the core movements such as kettlebell swings and handstand pushups. Just having elite Crossfitters do their standard moves in a unique location really doesn’t say much. Why not throw these athletes into an unfamiliar situation, such as a decathlon competition, a Highland Games, or a parkour race through the streets of NYC, and see if they can hold their own based on the full-body preparation that CrossFit provides? That would say something unique about the approach.
2. The people: At my box, CrossFit Ignite, the athletes are humble, dedicated to helping others, and focused on self-improvement. I have seen people lose 100 lbs., prep themselves for military service, and do fundraisers for any number of causes. The Empire State Building video and the emphasis on the “badass” aspects of CrossFit on the Reebok website seem to play right into the stereotype of Crossfitters as arrogant and operating in their own echo chamber. In rowing we have a phrase: “Shut up and settle it on the water.”
3. I view CrossFit methods as a unique lever to pull for competitive advantage in my chosen sport, not as the end-game. I am by definition a cherry-picker because my sporting goal is not to win the CrossFit Games, but to win rowing races. The fact that there is a claim about “Fittest on Earth” in these ads is simply laughable. We have not yet seen an athlete who dominates the Games for a decade or who also medals at the elite level in a single-sport discipline. As utterly amazing as some of the top CrossFit athletes are, it’s way premature to put them on the podium next to the likes of Lance Armstrong, Bjorn Daehlie, Steve Redgrave, or Daley Thompson, who are history-making in their dominance.
Of course everyone has the right to cash in if that’s what they are after. I feel the need to strongly state an opinion here because part of my audience is the non-CrossFit community, and this campaign will surely turn them off. Appreciate my readers’ opinions on this one.
I’m sure I will get in trouble with someone if I don’t also say this:
CrossFit and Fittest on Earth are registered trademarks and copyright of CrossFit Inc.