The self-titled “best known fitness brand in the world” has tapped a former Nike and Starbucks executive to take over the number two spot as the company continues to develop the brand under new ownership.
In naming former Nike executive Jason Dunlop to serve as its next president, CrossFit is signaling that it’s ready for the world to return to the gym — and that its direct-to-consumer (D2C) OnRamp program is key to its growth strategy.
At Nike, Dunlop was responsible for the apparel company’s D2C business across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, directing store growth and digital expansion that helped lay the groundwork for Nike’s D2C dominance.
As president of CrossFit, Dunlop, who also served as chief operating officer of Starbucks for Europe, the Middle East and Asia, will now be charged with finding opportunities for the same kind of growth, albeit with a slightly different model. CrossFit primarily partners with gyms across the country given the high intensity of its workouts, offering programs to credential trainers who want to lead CrossFit classes.
But Dunlop will also be responsible for expanding CrossFit’s education and training programs, including the new CrossFit OnRamp, meant to provide new customers with an at-home way to try the workouts rather than relying on local gyms to bring people in. The program is currently limited to beta access in Miami and Dallas, but CrossFit says new locations are coming soon.
OnRamp includes 12 on-demand sessions with CrossFit trainers, tailored to a consumer’s fitness goals and fitness levels. CrossFit also matches people in the OnRamp program with a local trainer for a free one-on-one session.
Eric Roza, CEO of CrossFit, said in March on the Subscription Stories podcast that gyms will still be where the core of CrossFit resides, “but this lets you get your legs under you and learn some skills and build the confidence.”
Roza said for every 10 people he tries to get involved in CrossFit, only one would try it, and getting just one other person out of those 10 to try it would add 1 million-plus people to the CrossFit ranks.
For his part, Dunlop said he’s confident CrossFit can become “an iconic worldwide brand on part with Nike and Starbucks.”
“I am as excited today to join the CrossFit community as I was five years ago when I first walked into a CrossFit box,” Dunlop said.
New Owner, New Direction
Roza became CEO of CrossFit last year after founder Greg Glassman made inflammatory comments about the death of George Floyd and decided to retire after the backlash. Roza purchased the company jointly with Boston-based investment firm Berkshire Partners in July 2020; terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Since then, Roza has spent time repairing relations with affiliate gyms and CrossFit enthusiasts and looking for ways to scale the company without losing what separates CrossFit from other workout plans. The CEO is also trying to make sure CrossFit is an inclusive, cohesive experience at tens of thousands of gyms around the world despite the autonomy and independence of each gym.
“I had no interest in changing what CrossFit is at its best,” Roza said in the March interview. “We’ve got that figured out. I want to be there more often.”
Part of being there more often, especially for a company focused on membership and subscriptions like CrossFit, is finding ways to entice new and potentially hesitant consumers. According to the PYMNTS Subscription Commerce Conversion Index, done in collaboration with Sticky.io, 53 percent of people who joined a health and wellness subscription did it because it was convenient, and 38 percent did it for enjoyment and fun.
In terms of enjoyment and fun, CrossFit is intense, and while fun for some people, Roza said the company is honest about the high intensity of the workouts. Still, the company tries to meet people where they are fitness-wise — and OnRamp could push that effort forward if it can make it convenient for consumers to join.
In a direct-to-consumer play, though, CrossFit faces heightened competition from Peloton, one of the largest companies in the connected fitness space, as well as the myriad other companies offering an online, at-home workout.
Last week, Pitbull invested in connected exercise bike company Echelon, just days after fitness brand Beachbody went public with the goal of becoming the “Disney Plus of fitness.”
Peloton has struggled in recent months with a massive recall of its treadmills and a security flaw in the operating system that powers the Peloton Bike+, potentially leaving the door open for competitors to take a piece of the market. But even with Peloton stumbling, it added 400,000 new fitness subscribers in the first three months of the year, bringing its total users to a record 2 million.
Additionally, Facebook has expressed some interest in virtual reality fitness classes and late last year, Apple launched its Apple Fitness+ subscription, which could spell trouble for fitness companies if even just a fraction of the 1 billion active iPhone users decide to sign up.