How to Use Other People’s Fitness Events to Make Money

How to Use Other People’s Fitness Events to Make Money

Chris Cooper (00:00):
Events are great, right? They’re a lot of fun for your clients. They give your clients a story to tell. They’re probably good for retention, but they’re a lot of work to pull off. So how can you use other people’s events to make you money and keep your clients around longer? I’m Chris Cooper and this is “Run a Profitable Gym.” Today, I’m gonna give you three big topics: First, the value of events for keeping and inspiring your clients. Second, you don’t have to run them. And third, I’m gonna give you three ways to make money off other people’s events. If you want more support, head to to join a group with thousands of the world’s top fitness entrepreneurs.

Chris Cooper (00:40):
I remember my first-ever CrossFit event. It was 2009. It was down at the Moss Park Armoury in Toronto, Ontario. It was called the CrossFit Ontario Throwdown or something like that. And in the third event, the, event was a thousand-meter row, 50 box jumps and 50 double-unders. And everybody with me that had made the trip from Sault Ste. Marie looked at each other and said, “What’s a double-under?” And I can remember before the event everybody trying to figure out how to do a double under. We’d never even heard of it before. And eventually we kind of figured it out. Some of us did better than others. Some people actually left with whip marks on their backs. But we all left with a great story. And the great thing about events is that for all of your clients, the athletic ones, the ones who have never done anything athletic in their life, events create a story, and stories are sticky.

Chris Cooper (01:32):
When we came home from that event, we decided we needed to run our own. And so in 2009, later on, we created the Catalyst Games, and we gave out these big, giant, fake wrestling belts to the winners. And people wore these things around. Other people had their kids sleeping with these belts at night. They looked like we were in the WWE or whatever. And it gave people a story to tell. And years later, like a decade later, people would come up to me and they would say, “Hey, you remember when Miranda wore her wedding veil at Catalyst Games 2012 and went straight to her wedding after that?”
You remember all that. Stories are amazing for retention because people remember experiences, and if you are giving them an experience that they’ve never had before, whether that’s their first 5K, their first weightlifting competition, or a Spartan race, they are going to always attribute that to you.

Chris Cooper (02:24):
And, in fact, they’ll always associate that with a peak moment in their life, which was due only to you. The great part about an event is retention, but when you’re doing events, it’s all about the story. So, for example, having somebody do their first CrossFit event is an amazing story. Helping somebody do their 12th CrossFit event is not such a great story unless they’re qualifying for the Games or something like that. Novelty is really important with events, and so you should encourage your clients to do new things all the time, including partake in local events. However, setting up events is a lot of work. Take it from a guy in remote Northern Ontario who isn’t within four hours of any other competitive events. We have to find our own here or we have to make them. The problem is that even if you charge for your own events, they take a lot of time.

Chris Cooper (03:14):
And so if you divide the time that you spend organizing the event by the money that you make, a lot of the time you actually come out underwater. You’re losing money or you’re making very little for your time. For example, the first couple of years that we did the Catalyst Games, I would go rent a really cool venue that was off site from my gym, and I would get up at 3:00 a.m., and I would load plates and bars and sleds and sandbags into my truck, and I would drive it down to the venue, and I’d be unloading and setting up and like stringing up banners at 4:30 in the morning so that when people started arriving at 8, it was ready to go and they had a peak experience. Even though we charged 50 bucks for that, you know, half that money went to the T-shirt—most of it, the rest, went to the venue, and then we had to add insurance.

Chris Cooper (04:00):
And by the time you figured it all out, I wasn’t making any money. I had burned an entire weekend. I would catch up on sleep, hopefully, on Sunday. I’d spent a lot of time. I was more burned out. My coaches had to volunteer, so, you know, they were tired on Monday. Again, my clients had a great time, and that for me felt worth it for a while. But I eventually realized there was a way to do this better. And that is to give your clients a peak experience, a story they’ll keep for the rest of their lives without putting out a lot of extra work yourself—and still being profitable. You can make a profit by partnering with other people’s events, okay? If you calculate the value of the time that you put into setting up an event, you’re probably not making very much, and you can actually do better by partnering with other people.

Chris Cooper (04:45):
So I’m gonna give you three ways to do it and three examples of how I’ve done it myself. The first is to find a popular local event like a 5K or a 10K run, something that attracts beginners but that people can also be competitive at. And you wanna just offer training for that event. So, for example, one local event that we support every year is called the Mountain Maple. It’s a cross-country trail run. We run up these giant hills, down these giant hills, through the bush. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a beautiful course, and they get 300 or 400 people every year. But the first year that they ran it, they got 20 or 30 people. And then we got on board and we said, “What if we helped people prepare to run their first 5K? And so we ran a training group that we called Couch to 5K, which was a novel name back then, but everybody uses it now.

Chris Cooper (05:34):
We probably stole it from “Runner’s World” or something. We didn’t invent it, and it was a six-week program. People would show up Tuesday, Thursday night. We charged $79 for it, and it ended the Thursday before the Mountain Maple run. And so people signed up for this event. We probably had about 15 the first year. The coach made four-ninths and did really well per hour. He gave people a little bit of stretching homework to do. They ran together twice a week. They all showed up at the Mountain Maple together, which was about, you know, 15 more people than they’d had the year before. And we showed up with banners and tents and cheering and bells to ring and all kinds of great stuff. And Mountain Maple loved it. And we made money. The next year, Mountain Maple said, “Hey, can you do that again? Can you like bring more people to our event?” And we said, “Yeah, sure. Why don’t you put a link on your website?” So they put a link on their website that said, “If you’re a new runner, learn to run with the Catalyst Couch to 5K program.” And that year we signed up 32 people. So people would think about the run, they would go to the Mountain Maple website, they would say, “I don’t know if I can do it,” or, “I don’t know if I can do it faster than last year,” click through the link, and sign up for our program. And then they would all register for the race and come with us. And eventually we worked out a long-term partnership with the Mountain Maple, and I’m thrilled to say that after a decade we are still really happy to be involved with them sponsoring today.

Chris Cooper (06:55):
That’s the first way that you can do it: You can pick a local event that people want to do and just build a training program for it. You don’t have to call it after the name of the event. We were calling it Couch to 5K. You can just tell people that you are preparing them for this specific event. You know, the 10K local run or whatever. But you don’t have to name your course after the run. If you do name your program after the run, you should work out a profit-share arrangement where they refer to you and they get a kickback when people sign up or when people do your program. Which leads me to the second way that you can do this, which is with really big events, you can actually work out a commission to prepare people and then sign people up.

Chris Cooper (07:35):
Two-Brain has a great partnership with Spartan Race. You’ve probably heard of that. They own Tough Mudder. They own DEKA. And so Two-Brain gyms get a commission when they sign people up for these races. So they become a race host, and when they register their clients for the races, they get a commission back from Spartan Race for signing people up. They also get some free tickets to the race that they could sell to their clients or just give away to their coaches or whatever they want. And they get an SGX certification so that they can offer training for the race in their gym. So they’re making money three ways: referrals, from their free tickets that they can gift or sell, and also from selling their training prep course. So if you’re in Two-Brain, just go to the Toolkit, click on “Events,” and you’ll see ways that you can set these groups up. Or click on “Specialty Groups,” and you’ll get step-by-step training, programming, pricing specifically for Spartan or any of these other groups you want to do, okay?

Chris Cooper (08:32):
It’s all there in the Toolkit for you. You don’t have to do a thing. You don’t have to figure out any of this. Just copy-paste the whole thing, and you’ve got a program. Ask your coaches “who wants to run this group?” They’ll collect four-ninths. They’ll do really well. So, as an example, let’s say that you’re gonna run a Spartan Race with your gym on Sept. 1 of next year. Fantastic. Your clients are gonna get an amazing experience, a great story from a professionally run event. These are awesome. And let’s say that you’re going to sign up 15 people at $50 a head. Well, you’re gonna get a commission on 11 of those, and you’re going to get free tickets for the other four. So you can sell those if you want to or you can use ’em yourself or give ’em to your coaches.

Chris Cooper (09:12):
Whatever you want to do. Then, leading up to September, you’re going to run an eight-week Spartan prep program for about $150 for eight weeks. People are going to come in, you know, once or twice a week. They’re gonna train with your coaches to get ready for Spartan. And, again, like this could be $300—just shooting out examples. And your coach is gonna collect four-ninths of that, which is higher than their normal group rate. They’re gonna have a lot of fun. It’s gonna be novel. People will love it because at Spartan you will attract people from outside your gym into your gym for this specialty program. They’ll pay for it. And then you’ll show up at the Spartan Race with all of your gym’s colors on—running together, having experiences, writing better stories that people will never forget, okay? It’s a win all the way around.

Chris Cooper (09:57):
So that’s the second way is to get commissions from a race. Now you really have to have a partnership with a big brand like Spartan to get commissions from a race. But if you have a larger event in your city, even a CrossFit one, you could probably approach the organizers and say, “Will you give me a 10 percent commission for every athlete that I built bring?” Or 20 percent or whatever. And then you also build out a training program specifically for that. The third way is for the event to bring people to you. Now, if you’re in a major metropolitan area with a lot of CrossFit gyms, let’s say, or a lot of cycling stores, you could host an event and possibly make money, where people from other gyms are coming to you. But the conversion from that is really, really rare.

Chris Cooper (10:45):
DEKA, which is owned by Spartan, is different. You can become a DEKA affiliate through Two-Brain. There’s an amazing deal and an amazing package that only Two-Brain gyms get. You become a DEKA affiliate; you run a DEKA event once, twice, three times a year; and there’s some marketing in your city that draws people into try it out. Now, DEKA is like HYROX, where it’s like this in-gym obstacle-course competition. It’s a fitness event that anybody can do. You probably have all the equipment that you need already except for one or two little things, and you can run it—you make money. There’s a worldwide leaderboard. There’s some marketing to actually bring people into your gyms. They handle awards, you know, the medals and all that kind of cool stuff, too, and you’ve got a worldwide brand working for you. So they advertise, they bring people in.

Chris Cooper (11:31):
That’s the third way that you can make money. You can also set up like training programs for DEKA. So you might have an eight-week DEKA prep course. You might just do DEKA workouts every Friday night through the summer so that people can get their hands on the equipment. Okay? But no matter what, you can still make money by doing this, and it’s not a lot of effort to set up the events. Honestly, DEKA you could set up in about 30 minutes. It’s mostly equipment that you already have. Once you’ve got it in the box, it’s just placing the stuff and then getting people to do timing. And you can get your coaches or other athletes to volunteer to do the timing. Or you could even pay your coaches because these are profitable. So to recap, events are great for client retention and ascension.

Chris Cooper (12:12):
Sometimes they’ll upgrade their membership to train for an event, especially if the event scares ’em a little bit. Okay? They they’re nervous that they might not be able to complete it, or they might not perform well. They might upgrade their membership to train for it or they might sign up for your specialty group. They’re really great for retention because they give clients a story that they can’t get anywhere else. It’ll create a peak moment in that client’s life that the client will always associate with your gym. The key, though, is that you don’t have to run them. If you wanna set up your own events because you love doing that, that’s great. If you wanna do it because you wanna raise funds for charity, fantastic. But if you want to get the benefits of retention and revenue and you don’t really like setting up events, you can still do that by partnering and using other people’s events and preparing your clients and strangers to do those events better. Okay, this is “Run a Profitable Gym.” I’m Chris Cooper. Thanks for listening or watching. You can join our Gym Owners United group today right now if you go to, I’m frequently in that group answering questions. We free webinars in there every month. We give away all kinds of free resources every third week. I’d love to have you in there. There’s over 7,000 of us gym owners in there right now offering tools, advice and experience. You can be one of us. It’s free. Join today: Thanks for watching!

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