By: A CrossFitter
Do you remember this time last year? We were flooded by advertisements, web virals, and banner ads promoting the 2012 CrossFit Games. At least to the outside, it was semblance of a functional operating agreement between CrossFit, Inc. and Reebok.
In short, CrossFit allowed Reebok to associate with a popular community culture and methodology in exchange for big budgeted contracted marketing push that would help raise the profile of a growing sport and its community.
Reebok was to focus on bolstering the CrossFit Games’ credibility with media outlets (and others) in exchange for the right to partner with CrossFit on apparel and approved gyms. This effort would help to authentically rebrand Reebok (over time and with picture-perfect follow through). More consumers would be introduced to CrossFit, thus growing the community. Reebok would move from too brand-varied to training focused, with the hope of overshadowing their previous niche errors. Everyone would be happy.
From the outside, everyone understands this to be the very basic agreement. Over the months, an analyst could describe countless ways that Reebok fell short of the original agreement. Why is the delta symbol being used without the word “CrossFit”? The Spartan Race is the ‘Sport of Fitness’? Will the ATV19’s out-silly the easytones? Trademark and intellectual property confusion? The list could go on.
All of these issues seemed to be brewing. And then the @CrossFit twitter account took the guesswork out of it, for us all. Reebok has yet to respond. The banter that we observed, last night, revolved around the lack of follow through and the theft of intellectual property. The negative views on last night’s social media dissertation on (potentially) failed partnerships revolved around purported lack of tact and professionalism. But was it? While most cheered CrossFit on for standing up for a clear contract dispute, enough people railed against CrossFit’s brash approach to educating the community and addressing the issue in a way that would most likely solicit a result.
The question is with [the growing] CrossFit, Inc. being a fraction of the size of [the shrinking] Reebok, what other means would you have recommended to address this issue? In many ways, it was the most effective.
If you are wondering where Reebok’s focus is right now: Look No Further. With the most important PR point of the CrossFit Games season around the corner, Reebok is doing a fraction of a fraction of what they did just last year to meet their contract obligations. They’ve also branded the delta logo as their own as a hedge against discontinuing the use of the word “CrossFit” in their apparel branding. So, of course CrossFit, Inc. would be vehemently against Reebok’s recent actions.
Was the approach that CFHQ took the most politically correct, polite, and tactful? Maybe not. But we’d fight for our business. You’d fight for yours. And most importantly, if we had a business centered around community, we would not let them be thrown to the side by a corporate entity. Like them, like us, you’d fight to win.
There are many lessons to take from this episode but one of them is that sometimes, you have to do almost whatever it takes to compete. We hope that the fitness company and the shoe company can get back on track. The Games are near.