Article

How We Got 500 Athletes on Team CrossFit NYC

Published on Tue, 2012-02-28 13:46
By: 
Hari Singh, Joshua Newman, and Court Wing

Photos by: Eric Clinton Anderson

​CrossFit NYC is one of the highest-participating affiliates in the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Open. We asked them to tell us their story.

It only took CrossFit NYC seven years to become an overnight success. We were the 16th affiliate, starting as an informal workout club in Central Park. When the weather turned cold, we subleased space in a globo gym, only to get kicked out months later due to our boisterous WODs. So, we found another globo gym. And then were kicked out of that one, too. After getting tossed from six gyms, we gave in and signed a first lease of our own in 2007. 
 
A year later, we were evicted; apparently, if you're on the fourth floor of an old building, dropping heavy cleans will knock down your downstairs neighbor's ceiling. Still, undeterred, on we went from there, to better leases, bigger spaces, and more hassles; we're now neck-deep in yet another move, scrambling as ever to upgrade and upsize. Turns out, it isn’t easy running an affiliate in Manhattan office buildings.
 
By now, we know many affiliates look at our 500-person team and think, we don't even have 500 (or 100) members. For a long time, neither did we. It wasn’t until last year, our sixth year of existence, that we stopped losing money. We’ve poured everything into our box, and often we wondered whether even that would be enough.
 
Over the years, we have stuck to a few basic premises. You know them. They’re the ones Coach Glassman has been preaching from the beginning; we were just lucky enough to hear them straight from the source: it’s all about coaching, and all about caring about our members. We worry night and day about coaching, about providing the best possible member experience. Some of it we get right, and some of it we get wrong. But every week, we sit down and ask ourselves what we can do better, and then we try to do just that. After 350 weeks, we’re seeing the results.
 
As we’ve grown, we’ve had more funds to pour back into the business, and that, in turn, has helped us continue to grow. But recently, we noticed something else going on. Not only are we pushing growth, CrossFit and Reebok are pushing it for us.
 
Obviously, we affiliates have always had the advantage of traffic driven directly to us through the main site, and indirectly through the growth of CrossFit. But in this past year, things have started to further accelerate. The wind is at our back, and we believe CFHQ and Reebok are the source. If we needed a sign, there's one literally outside our window. Over the last month, Reebok's guerilla ad campaign has been projecting a CrossFit commercial, 40-feet tall, on the side of a building across the street from our new location, close enough that you could literally throw a softball at and hit.
 
A few years ago, if you had told us that Reebok would be marketing a box 800 yards away from us, we would have freaked out. Now, we’re thrilled. We’re getting a totally free ride off the Reebok campaign, and we literally can't keep up with demand. We know we’d rather have 25 percent of the Manhattan market, if that market were 4,000 members, than 100 percent of the same market, if that market were 200 members, as it was two years ago.
 
A month back, we again asked ourselves what the smartest thing we could do to grow our affiliate was, and the answer was obvious: keep doing what we’ve been doing, and stay close to CFHQ. If getting people participating in the Open is seen as a good way to grow our sport — and clearly it is — then that’s where we would concentrate. Now, we just need to figure out how to get 500 people through the Open workouts. Ideally without knocking down any more ceilings.
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