As a gym owner, there’s often temptation to jump on a “cash grab” opportunity. And hosting a gym competition is one of those seemingly-simple opportunities.
You’re not alone if you’ve ever thought, ‘I could use a revenue boost so maybe I’ll host a comp. If I get 100 athletes paying $100 each, that’s an easy $10k.’
The truth is, once expenses and time are factored in, it’s not nearly as lucrative as you expected. Costs can add up quickly, from prizes to feeding volunteers to renting portable toilets.
And after six months of planning and more than 100 hours of work, you’re left with $1,200. Plus the reality that you just worked that hard for $12 per hour.
So is hosting a gym competition ever really worth it? And is it possible to be financially viable? Recently, a handful of elite CrossFit competition hosts found themselves in the red after the event was over, and unable to pay the promised prize purses. So the bottom line is, you always want turn a profit. And good news: There are ways to ensure you do.
If you're considering hosting a gym competition, start with a realistic expectation. Most likely, it won’t be a major source of revenue at first. At the very least, do what it takes to stay out of the red. Instead, think of it as a community-building opportunity. It will help with gym retention, which indirectly increase revenue. Then when it’s all said and done, you’ll want athletes, volunteers and judges to enjoy the event and want to return.
To help, here are six myths that will help with expectations and reality for your event.
Six Myths (And Truths) About Hosting A Gym Competition:
1. You Need Big-Name Athletes.
The truth is, catering to the general population gives you a better opportunity to generate revenue.
In fact, The CrossFit Games doesn’t make money, something CrossFit founder Greg Glassman has always been open about. Smaller events that cater to the everyday athlete, are, and are able to be, profitable.
Festivus, which started in 2011, is a great example. Touted as “feats of strength for the rest of us,” Festivus is focused on the everyday CrossFit enthusiast and turns a profit every year. Owner Maggie Ludwig says the business model is scalable and the bi-annual competitions are easy to run for hundreds of participating gyms.
For example, the last Festivus competition in October 2022 was hosted by 132 gyms. It was a team format with 7,800 participants, generating more than $600k in revenue. According to Ludwig, the two main expenses were paying hosts a percentage of revenue and creating athlete swag bags.
The Filthy 150 in Dublin, Ireland is another great example. At one point it was a Sanctional event that qualified athletes to the CrossFit Games. Now, the reason it makes money each year is because of the community-driven event that attracts everyday CrossFit athletes.
Ultimately, there are many more everyday athletes looking for a chance to compete than there are elite CrossFitters. So catering to the masses lends itself to a greater chance of financial success.
2. You Must Include All Divisions.
The truth is, it’s better to keep things as simple as possible when hosting a gym competition. While being inclusive is a great intention, it’s not always easy to manage. Offering options for individuals, teams, elite, intermediate, scaled, masters, teens and adaptive athletes is a quick way to overwhelm yourself.
You aren’t trying to host The CrossFit Games so it’s better to focus on the divisions you think you can manage well. Not only will this benefit you as the organizer, but it will be easier on volunteers, judges, athletes and even spectators.
Like many business decisions, it’s best to find a niche and serve that niche well, especially when you’re getting started. Limit your categories to one or two, like teens, mixed pairs or masters. Or choose two divisions like men and women, or RX and scaled.
In addition, limit the number of heats you run. This keeps athletes from waiting hours between events and spectators from watching the same workout eight times. Two heats is ideal, three if absolutely necessary.
3. You Need To Offer Prize Money.
The truth is, especially when it comes to hosting a gym competition that isn’t elite level, you don’t need to offer prize money.
The everyday CrossFit enthusiast isn’t trying to make a living from competition. Most likely, they’ll be stoked to bring home bragging rights and a decent swag bag.
However, if you’re determined to offer a prize purse, do not base it off of projected profits. For example, if you haven’t earned the money yet from spectator ticket sales or registration fees, don’t offer that money up for prizes.
A better option is to keep the prize pot unannounced until expenses and revenue are calculated. Even elite-level competitions like the Rogue Invitational operate this way. They offer a certain amount of guaranteed prize money, with the remainder being dependent on ticket sales and variable expenses.
4. The Programming Needs To Be Unique.
Remember the CrossFit Open workout with seven minutes of burpees? It was one of the simplest and straightforward workouts in the history of the Open. And was also one of the most memorable.
Or consider the two most popular workouts from the 2022 CrossFit Games: The Sandbag Ladder and The Capitol. Both events were simple and straightforward, and arguably the least flashy of the entire competition.
So the truth is, when you’re hosting a gym competition, simple can be effective. Plus, it’s often more relatable, to athletes and even spectators, than events with a dozen moving parts.
Pro Tip: Make sure everyone - athletes and spectators alike - knows who is in the lead at all times. A simple way to do this is to make the competition floor linear, with a start and finish line. That way, it’s clear to everyone where competitors are in each heat.
5. The Venue Has To Be Impressive.
The truth is, unless you have very limited square footage, hosting a gym competition is doable for most gyms. If your gym is in fact very small, you may need to seek other options. But generally speaking, most first-time competitions are doable.
Instead of splurging on a venue, rent bleachers for spectators and barricades to create a clear competition floor.
The key is to get creative, maximizing gym space and equipment that you do have. This will save you time and money, not to mention the headache of transporting and setting up equipment.
6. The Event Needs Paid Sponsors.
The truth is, sponsorship can sometimes put additional, unnecessary pressure on you. While it might seem like a good option to bring in additional money, charging sponsors leads to lofty expectations.
On one hand, if vendors are investing in sponsorship, they’ll expect an ROI otherwise they might not return. On the other hand, giving free booths will probably mean more vendors. This adds to the event energy and sponsors are more likely to donate products or services for prizes and swag bags.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve organized your event, send registration info to your members quickly and easily! Book a demo with the PushPress Grow team today to find out more!
In Summary: Be The Host With The Most
The most important focus for hosting a gym competition is making it profitable. A very close second is ensuring your athletes, volunteers and spectators have a great experience.
Start small and play the long game so you can build your event over time. If you have the space to host the event at your gym, make sure athletes have an adequate warm-up area and a clear competition floor. Create simple, effective workouts to test people’s fitness and entertain spectators. Follow the schedule and run events on time. Take care of your volunteers. And finally, provide athletes with fun swag bags, enticing vendors and an invitation to return to your next competition.