Play Nice With Others

By Dale Saran

In Legal

March 30, 2012

PDF Article

Dale Saran explains how courtesy and hard work trump piggyback advertising techniques.

So, you wanna be a CrossFit affiliate, eh?

I remember the salad days of being a CrossFit affiliate, circa early 2008. There were maybe a few hundred affiliates. I was the first—and only—CrossFit affiliate in Rhode Island. I didn’t have to worry about competitive advertising, Google AdWords, website metatags, being undercut by another affiliate, Globo Gyms ripping off the mark and stealing my clients ... .

Fast-forward a few years. I now work for HQ and handle (among other things) protecting CrossFit’s trademark from the ever-increasing variety of poachers, thieves and ne’er-do-wells who want a piece of the action without having to pay.

CrossFit affiliates, I feel your pain more intimately than you know. This is the first of what I hope will be a number of articles regarding our community’s need to protect our brand and trademark, how we do that, and other tips and items of interest to you, the affiliate owner or prospective affiliate owner.

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14 Comments on “Play Nice With Others”


wrote …

Protect the community. Engage the community. Be a contributor to the community. For many a year this has been my mantra. Dale was one of my earliest examples of what the best of the CrossFit community could be. Indeed, our friendship, born on the internet in the cyber-gym that is, was solidified by a leap of faith as we simply assumed that we would be friends in person if only we could meet. Having never laid eyes on each other Dale, Apolloswabbie, and I just assumed that we would have a ball in Aromas and flew into SFO with nothing other than a rental car, a hotel room, and the CrossFit community in common. The rest is, well, history!

Coach admits that he was a bit ambushed by the community that has grown up around his fitness program, and that he will fight to his last breath for each and every CrossFitter, especially his affiliates. Dale is the "sharp end of the spear" in that effort.



wrote …

very very encouraging. the point about MAKING clients is core stuff - the people who come to you as a result of engaging with YOU rather than seeing an ad of tapping into a google search are the ones you will keep. They will become a part of what your affiliate becomes in terms of its character.


wrote …

Putting your finger on so many critical issues, with clarity, a gift.

Making money with CrossFit is great. Everyone in your gym needs you to make money doing what you do. Making money in your gym while playing nice - priceless. I have been very grateful for the warmth extended my way by CF Bartlett, CF Memphis - and hope for the same with all the new CF gyms here!


wrote …

Well said. We're six years into this now and couldn't have said it better. Coach Glassman told my partner and me 6 years ago: run damn good classes and the rest will take care of itself.

And, follow Dale's recommendations for Community, Leadership and The Golden Rule.

We love helping local affiliates get started - from advice on working with the City to where to get the best equipment deals and how to grow your customer base.

When we spot advertising from a "not yet approved affiliate" who have never introduced themselves, we get suspicious of their true intentions.


Zach Even - Esh wrote …


Good stuff, but, it goes well beyond just being excellent... I KNOW, this is just the first article.

But, many people are uneducated as to what CrossFit is... they think every CF is the same, so often times, they price shop, and then, one CF tried to undercut the other, the other and the other.... in the long run, it DEvalues CrossFit being cheap and / or cheaper than everyone else.

CrossFit becomes a commodity, like many pizzarias.

I miss the days of getting my journal as a PDF via e mail.... I miss the days of the affiliates I knew were affiliates because they LOVED CrossFit, NOT because they wanted to use CrossFit in a marketing sense.

I would love to see more articles on this topic.

I've known some solid coaches who deaffiliated b/c of neighboring CrossFit Coaches / owners not being ethical and it bothers me that it had to happen.....

This is a touchy subject for me..... I LOVE the community and I see how we've been given every opportunity to become great at what we do with seminars and specialty courses all around the world.

I just wanna see the newer affiliates being part of the community because it's in their heart.

Sorry for getting emotional but this stuff means a lot to me.

Thank YOU :)


wrote …

How far is CrossFit going to take this? Take this local Global-Gym they're offering X-Fit classes, which I feel is their attempt to compete with our local box Olympic Peninsula YMCA CrossFit. They only created the class and started hanging banners in their front window when we relocated to 5,000 sqft location.

I view this as breaking the copyright rules, how does HQ feel?



wrote …

Lots of good stuff in the article and the comments.

To go off on a slight tangent:

I'm a member of a gym that is NOT a CrossFit affiliate and has never claimed to be. But it is a lot closer to CrossFit than to a globo: no machines, lots of open space, timed workouts, lifting platforms, rings, etc... I'd describe it as "CrossFit meets sports performance." Many of the members are former college athletes and the instructors are very competent. They help prepare the athletes for competitions, including CrossFit and Oly lifting competitions. They also do lots of therapy.

And many of the members are very familiar with CrossFit. The post-workout discussion often focusses on the latest Open workout or the latest Journal article.

From time to time, the owners have flirted with the idea of affiliating with CrossFit. Being good people, they finally decided not to. They were uncomfortable just affiliating for marketing purposes. Which was the correct decision, IMHO.

I also know many of the local CrossFit affiliate owners. From what I can tell, they have a good relationship -- even tough several started off as trainers at the older affiliates. I haven't seen the conflicts Dale refers to in his article.

Bottom line: there is plenty of room for everyone, as long as a few common sense, common decency guidelines are respected.


Dale Saran wrote …

Zach - I appreciate your passion about this. Believe me when I say that it's near and dear to my heart, too. I don't know the specifics of the coaches you mean, but no one should have to fold up because of being "undercut" in pricing. More importantly, we absolutely cannot be involved in forcing Affils to all charge the same rate, even in the same geographic area (it's a violation of federal law). As for your hope that all of these "new guys" feel as passionate about CF as you do, I'll just say that I don't read every essay like I used to, but the sample I occasionally read look/feel/sound a whole lot like the ones I used to see, Zach. I'd wager you're not the same coach you were 5 years ago - and if the folks in CF back then had had the idea that "newbs" like you shouldn't be allowed in, think of the loss that would have been to our community. I'm not suggesting every Affil who comes in is the "perfect" Affil in spirit - but there really is no practical (or even theoretical) perfect test that would allow us to sort the pure of heart from the impostors. But I'll tell you, Brother, they tend to out themselves pretty quickly and the surrounding Affiliate community knows what's up. And not surprisingly, there seems to be a correlation between a person's kind-heartedness and their success (generally). I'm not suggesting the only thing you need is a big heart and nothing else - but if you're passionate about this, you'll do the things necessary to be successful - be it personal education about business, coaching, or (the most important, IMO) about your clients.


Sean - obviously, someone's riding our coattails, but some quick corrections - first, it's not a copyright violation. Copyrights and trademarks are completely distinct pieces of the IP puzzle. Second, your question is the perfect jumping off point for the next article I'm working on about this exact issue "CrossFit" vs. The Poseurs "XFit", "XFit-ness", "Crossfit-ness" and on and on. The short answer is: if it isn't CrossFit - capital C, capital 'F' - then it's bullshit. We need to educate our own community AND the outside world about this.

The reason is that we don't want to continue to be chasing every imaginable poseur (and believe me, Sean, I've seen them all, in about 12 different languages, too). As a matter of fact and law, someone already owns the trademark for "XFit" in Class 41 - which is our class, fitness services. And it doesn't appear to be a poseur- it's a small gym in New York and their logo makes it clear they're not trying to poach off of us. So, I don't really have any desire (or authority) to police someone else's trademark.

Finally, as a practical matter, no globo should be able to "steal" clients away from any Affiliate. If so, you're missing the secret sauce. What you offer is as different from some globo offering an "XFit" class as filet mignon is from hamburger helper. In almost every case, we find that those idiots trying to plagiarize inevitably create more clients for you. Because when people ask, "what is this 'XFit' and eventually find out that what they're doing isn't the real deal, their next, natural question is 'what's the real deal look like?' AND 'why is this place trying to copy that other company's stuff?' There's a difference between a fake Rolex and a real Rolex, Sean - and we all know it. You're not interested in the person who knowingly buys the fake Rolex.

But send this one in to and we'll look into it. Just be aware we get about 150 of these a week from around the world and I have to prioritize them by the nature of the threat, infringement, evidence, and available resources.




Dale, thnx :) I agree w/ALL you say. My buddies who left didn't leave b/c of undercutting prices, they had other reasons, some bigger reasons was crossfits opening close to them, telling their members to leave for discount, etc.

I agree, if you're f**ing awesome you'll WIN. Period. Awesome at training, community, caring.... sounds so easy but you're right, not enough get it right

I'm NOT asking for the community to shrink, BUT, if we're gonna call it community, then treat one another w/respect and raise the standard

I have my issues and I'm sure peeps have issues w/me :)

W/regards to the marketing stuff, I get pissed when someone asks me if they should CF affiliate b/c that's the "IN thing" and everyone knows about it

I want people in this community b/c they love it, period, NOT b/c it's popular....

I hope that all makes sense

I know I'm not perfect and I've had my own ups and downs but I'm always ready to give to those who want to listen and get help

Thnx, Brutha.

Feel free to reach out to me for anything you need :)

Peace, Homie!



wrote …

Thank Dale!

I totally agree, if you have a quality program, you won't lose your athletes. What I do worry about is the uneducated newbie who makes their way into some globo gyms X-Fit class thinking it’s a CrossFit class and getting hurt. Next thing you know the newbie is badmouthing the concepts of CrossFit, when in fact they never truly experienced them.
Bottom line is, we know what it means to be a quality CrossFit Box, but I think most newcomers have no clue, and can be easily misled.


Zach and Sean- I think we all are saying the same thing. We want people here because they love it, not because it's the "new fad." Those of us who've been here awhile want people to come to this with the same understanding that we now have. And to a certain extent, you're right, Zach. The demographic of the community is changing - when we were small, the newb had to come to the site and kind of fish around, get to know the tenor of things, skulk on the message boards, ask a few dumb questions, be reminded to use the search function by Lynne, etc.

We've exploded and there is soooo much more information available to the average newcomer and it doesn't always feel like they take the time to "grind it out" like maybe you and others did. But we need to show them the same patience that was shown to us - and be leaders by example - both online and in our local community to the newbs. And that's part of the gist of the article - as a reminder to both the new and old that the magic sauce here IS the community. And that being a stand-up member of this community extends to all aspects of being a CrossFIt affiliate - whether in your marketing, your treatment of clients of another Affiliate, your handling of when one of your trainers wants to leave to open a new box, etc.

Coach said a long time ago that he was trying to make trainers true 'professionals,' like accountants, lawyers, or doctors. And sometimes that definition gets mangled because of "professional" sports vs. "amateur" sports - meaning the difference between a "professional" and an "amateur" is whether one gets paid and the other doesn't. But that's not the definition that we mean. The first definition of a professional is this:
1. a. Of, relating to, engaged in, or suitable for a profession: lawyers, doctors, and other professional people.
b. Conforming to the standards of a profession: professional behavior.

THAT'S the one we're after. I think that when everyone starts to see themselves in that light, rather than simply as a trainer trying to make a buck by getting some clients, we'll have gotten there. But it's important to remember that it's a journey, not an endpoint.

Glad you guys are part of leading on this.


wrote …

Dale: I'm aware that the term "Crossfit" is trademarked. However I see "Crossfit" used on blogs and in books. I don't recall seeing a "tm" or anything like that. I bring this up because I'm working on a project that uses "Crossfit" in the title ( I sent an email to Crossfit HQ asking about usage of the term and never heard back. I'd love it if I didn't run into any problems by using "Crossfit" in the title of a work I plan to copyright. Thanks,


wrote …

Zach, I understand, but I opened an affiliate that was substantially cheaper than my neighbors because when I first wanted to to Crossfit, I couldn't afford it. Crossfit in Atlanta is prohibitively expensive, and I thought that was unfair. I had an opportunity to open a box with low overhead, and I took it. I like my fellow affiliates and have a good relationship with them, but you can't spread a movement by charging everyone $200 a month. It needs to be available to everyone.

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