The idea for Functional Branding started shortly after Coach Glassman surprised everybody & dramatically shifted CrossFit® away from the Games & toward Health. In an interview with Morning Chalk Up, he said the changes were "the path to 150,000 affiliates.”

Growing to 150,000 worldwide affiliates is what's known as a BHAG - a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. I loved it.

After all, I fell in love with CrossFit because of a BHAG. In the early days, it was the stated mission of building the fittest humans on Earth that attracted so many of us.

Now, it's this.

Is the number achievable?

I bet on Coach's vision back in 2006 when I helped start Again Faster Equipment. I'm willing to do it again.

That doesn't mean it will be easy. A lot stands in the way. I believe that if it happens, it will be because of individual affiliates doubling-down on improving three areas of their business:

  1. Better Coaching - This includes seeing, correcting, cueing, class management, & nutrition. But just as important, it includes becoming better leaders & understanding the science of how people learn, how they form habits, & how motivation works.

  2. Better Operations - By this, I mean the unsexy parts of running a business. Spreadsheets, facility management, hiring/firing, standard operating procedures. The necessary stuff.

  3. Better Branding - No business in the world gets to ignore its marketing & branding & not see an effect on its growth. The change from the Games to Health is all about course-correcting the brand of CrossFit. Affiliates need to follow suit.

Functional Branding exists to help tackle this third challenge. At its core, it's built atop three principles:

  1. Brand with Intention - Every CrossFit affiliate is already marketing & already building a brand. So let's do it consistently & let's do it on purpose.

  2. Brand with Specificity - CrossFit is for anybody, but it's not for everybody. It's time to get honest about this so you can market your services to the right people - the people most likely to respond.

  3. Brand with Empathy - It's no longer enough to put the word "CrossFit" on your door & expect it to bring you success. You have to market your gym in a way that puts your prospective customers first. You have to meet them where they are & acknowledge that your expertise is only relevant when it relates to their journey.

Functional Branding is built on the assumption that most CrossFit affiliates won't ever have a marketing department & the argument that that's no longer a good enough excuse to ignore it.

It's as essential as building better coaches, & running a smart, efficient business.

If you agree, the best day to have started tackling the challenge was yesterday.

The next best day to start is today.



My name is Patrick Cummings.

I've built brands & created media inside the CrossFit community for over 12 years, including working closely with Ben Bergeron & CrossFit New England for the last four. I've seen the movement grow up from nothing. I've seen what used to work, & I see that it's not necessarily what works today.

I'm not an affiliate owner. That might cause you to wonder if you can trust me. I get that. Truthfully, that I don’t own a gym almost caused me to shelf this idea before it ever began. But I didn’t shelf it, & here’s why:

If I had been running a gym over the last decade, I never would have dived deep into marketing & branding. I never would have read all the books I have. I never would have had the experience & the conversations I have. More than that, I never would have been able to come to the perspective I have. I would have been too busy running the gym.

I didn’t shelf this project, in the end, precisely because I don’t run a gym. I think the distance I have from the daily grind of operating an affiliate gives you an opportunity to see your business through a different set of eyes.



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