CrossFit to the Highest Bidder

by a Concerned Citizen

Would you continue buying a product from a company who believes that you buy it because you’re “unsophisticated” and will buy something just because you see a Subject Matter Expert (SME) from an organization that you trust wearing the t-shirt?

Progenex. The Crossfit protein powder. Sure, it’s not produced by Crossfit, but they’re one of the major sponsors of the Crossfit Games, and have been highlighted in that role for the past few years – the time span during which most people have started Crossfitting, most instructors have been certified, and most affiliates have opened up. To acknowledge the tremendous growth of Crossfit is also to admit that most people are new to this world. When Progenex first started sponsoring the Crossfit games, there were less than two-thousand affiliates. Now there’s over five-thousand (or whatever). This means by default, most of those people have only been aware of Progenex as the dominant supplement; that MHP or other brands started sponsoring the ‘Games in 2012 does little to mitigate this fact. Progenex is marketed primarily to Crossfitters and without that market, the company shutters their doors.

I won’t waste my time or yours by talking about the product itself. Their flagship is just whey protein hydrolysate, the kind you can get anywhere. Enough ink has been spilled on whey protein hydrolysate already, and if you’re really interested, you can Google it. If you’re really, really interested, you can Google Scholar it (scholar.google.com). What interests me is how they became the biggest supplement in the Crossfit world, and what they think of that world.

The following is the sworn deposition of their interim CEO, talking about how they paid “trainers that train the trainers” (SMEs) to wear their shirts, mix up some shakes, and penetrate the “highly unsophisticated” Crossfit market:

This deposition was taken after he quit – they claim they fired him, he claims he quit – but he was the second CEO to leave, and that suggests something is up. But that’s not the point, the point is that he was being deposed in a lawsuit, unrelated to Crossfit. What he said simply represents the attitude Progenex has towards Crossfit. Put some cash in the SMEs hands, and the lemmings would follow without question.

I believe him insofar as this is the most likely way Crossfit is seen at the company, if only because he had no motivation to lie. On this topic, the comments weren’t important to the actual case he was being deposed for, and they didn’t make him look good, bad, credible, or less credible – it was just background information. Because of this, he was likely telling the truth. He was only at Progenex for a few  months, and if he was fired (which seems to be in dispute), he certainly wasn’t fired because he didn’t respect Crossfit enough, or because he didn’t understand why SMEs were being paid to wear  their shirts and mix up their shakes. No matter what he said at this portion of the deposition, with regards to paying off SMEs or whether or not Crossfit is sophisticated, there would be zero bearing on the case.

So if you’re buying these products, you should know that the people putting your dollars in their pockets think you to be highly unsophisticated, and believe that the majority of their sales are because they’ve put a few bucks into the hands of the people who do your thinking for you. I don’t know what’s worse – the fact that these people thought they could just pay off some “big names” in Crossfit, and everyone would buy whatever they were selling – or the fact that it worked. I guess that’s not a very sophisticated attitude…

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6 Responses

  1. King Schlong

    Meh, not that I disagree but he clarified what he meant by “unsophisticated” and it makes sense. If unsophisticated means not having a retail counter with competing products, then what’s the big deal? Thin skin much? Progenix gets cheap marketing and affiliates dont have to maintain inventory of their product so they’re more likely to promote the thing – they have no skin in the game and are making a commision anyway.

    If I were a crossfit affiliate, I don’t think I’d be upset by his characterization of my facility as unsophisticated. I’m sure there will be a shirt somewhere soon that promotes “unsophisticated fitness” as a badge of honor (I need to get on that). I’m good with that. I’d buy progenix if it were cost effective but it’s not. They pay some of my friends’ travel expenses though, and that’s cool.

    If you want to get upset about a company disparaging crossfitters and exploiting their cultitude, get after “2 Pood” and “Skins” and other such vendors supplying crossfitters with all their laughable, niche apparel. I don’t think I’ve ever had to ask myself “You think that guy Crossfits?” when I see an emmaciated dude-bro in board shorts and tall socks at Trader Joes with a cart full of almond butter. Whoever started that shit needs a stern talking to.

    July 24, 2013 at 9:42 am

    • D

      Well put. I got the exact same feel from the quote, and I couldn’t agree more about the culture of accessorizing that has taken that crowd by storm. As time goes on quality continues to nose dive while individuals and corporations are grabbing at the cash until they know the wave has subsided. It’s a typical story of dilution and quantity over quality.

      July 25, 2013 at 6:45 am

  2. Mary Burkholder

    Taking the word on this interim CEO? LOL ok. Do your research on this person before you claim they are credible. Instead of Google’ing stuff about whey isolate protein, you should be Google’ing stuff about this interim CEO. From what it sounds, Progenex didn’t do enough research on this person either.

    I don’t take Progenex myself (too expensive), but they have been great supporters of the Crossfit community so I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

    July 29, 2013 at 4:17 pm

  3. maxwell

    My the biggest regret for this year was doing crossfit level 1 course,i would rather pay that 1000$ for another tattoo,trip from uk to usa,or some strength semminars…is not worth more than a 100$!!!!

    Most of cf population(uk),is uneducated(nutrition,training,suplemments),they believe in cf shoes for over 150$,tshirts,shorts,sock,tapes and magic recovery drink worth 50%more than other better supplements from well known brands….

    September 3, 2013 at 8:58 pm

  4. Alex Diaz

    Yeah and it’s particularly awesome that the SMEs took money behind the scenes to promote this stuff to us. That’s not the same as an athlete being sponsored, because we understand that there’s a sponsorship in effect. This is totally different because we were unaware that cash was changing hands. Oh and by the way, not disclosing that little fact makes it a violation of FTC guidelines – so it’s not just me who thinks it’s dishonest, it’s the Federal Trade Commission.

    October 24, 2013 at 6:35 pm

  5. Adam Bowman

    I don’t particularly give a crap what the company thinks of me, IT’S A BUSINESS. It’s out to make money! Anyone who thinks that a corporation sits around thinking of ways to help out the little guy is fooling themselves anyway. What does bother me, is the trainer aspect. There’s definitely an ethics issue here. The t-shirt maybe, but being paid to stand in front of students and mix shakes? Shameful. If I did shit like that if font of my Soldiers, I’d lose all credibility (and should). Like everything else on this shithole of a planet, guess you better know what you’re paying for! From Afghanistan, OUT.

    January 1, 2014 at 2:00 am

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