What CrossFit Can Teach You About Cult Branding

CrossFit is a fitness lifestyle that has taken the world by storm over the last few years.  In some ways, it’s a throwback to old-fashioned fitness, using moves that incorporate cardio activity with strength training moves like pull-ups and push-ups.  From garage set-ups to larger spaces, CrossFit “boxes” (as CrossFitters like to call them) are popping up all over.

The brand has grown exponentially, with no advertising.  People are addicted.

CrossFit is the perfect example of a stripped-to-the-bone strategy for cult branding.

It’s for every single person on the planet.

Show up at a CrossFit box and you’re automatically a member of the family.  Much like a yoga practice, the culture reflects that everyone works at their own pace, wherever they may be in the journey.  A typical CrossFit class can easily include individuals aiming for competition, three-hundred pound beginners, and men/women who are wheelchair-bound.  The vibe is one of inclusion and pride that you chose the group to hone your fitness skills.  Chants and cheers for each other are an ordinary part of every class.

It’s authentic… and generous.

When I joined my CrossFit box last winter, I was a terrible runner.  As in, I couldn’t. One day, the warm-up was for the group to do a short “shuttle run,” where the back person in line sprints to the front as the group jogs.  I sent them on their way, telling there was no way I would be able to keep up.  As I jogged around the corner by myself on the return trip, there was the group, jogging in place, cheering me on to sprint to the front and take them on home.  How can you not get addicted to authentic generosity like that?

Employees are experts at transferring confidence.

The atmosphere for every CrossFit box starts with the owners and coaches.  Good owners constantly remind coaches what a great job they are doing, and give them bits of advice on how they can make the experience even better.  They tell coaches, “I believe in you.”

Great coaches do the same for members.  A CrossFit coach really does believe in you, and will balance giving you advice with reminding you of how great you’re doing.  It not only transfers confidence to members to work a little harder, it also gives members the confidence to cheer each other on.  It’s viral, and spreads beyond CrossFit’s doors.  Have four or five hours to spare?  Ask a CrossFitter about what the experience is like.  Tom Wanek and I (both CrossFitters) have been known to jabber on to each other for a whole evening.

It’s got an inside lingo.

With CrossFit, there’s just enough “inside lingo” to set itself apart from other programs.  The beauty of the lingo lies in its simplicity; the more you use it, the more curious others become.  Here are some of the questions my Facebook friends have asked me when I’ve posted a status update on my CrossFit training:

“What in heck is a WOD? Sounds kinda kinky.”  (Workout of the Day!)

“AMRAPS? What do you do, knock someone on the head or something?” (No, it means ‘As Many Rounds As Possible’)

“POOD – haha.  How do you do 1 ½ POODS?  Did you eat a lot of broccoli last night?” (What a comedian – POOD is a Russian measure for kettlebell weights)

Members pick up the lingo and use it like a secret code to discover other CrossFitters wherever they go.  It automatically creates a common bond, provoking discussion and deepening the connection with CrossFit.

How does your brand stack up to CrossFit?  With the right strategy and direction, you can do it, too.  Work to:

Discover a common thread about your product or service that others in your industry are not exploiting.


Make every customer understand that no matter where they are on their journey, they are welcome.


Transfer confidence to your employees first… the rest will take care of itself.


Come up with a lingo phrase or two that customers can use to “talk the secret code.”



Take a visit to a CrossFit near you.  It’s fantastic marketing research, and good for you as well!

Do you have a burning question for the WonderBranding team? Send it our way at ask@wonderbranding.com

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2 Responses to “What CrossFit Can Teach You About Cult Branding”

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  1. Tanner Stevens says:

    there is a great CF documentary called Killing the Fat Man on YT. You should check it out. thanks for the info

  2. Michele says:

    Thanks for the comment, Tanner. I’ve been watching “Killing the Fat Man” and can heartily recommend it!

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