By Lincoln Rinehart
CrossFit #socialfail Case Study
CrossFit is a fitness program started by Greg Glassman and Lauren Jenai in 2000. The program offers high-intensity interval fitness training to members of over 13,000 participating gyms. Recently CrossFit has associated itself with issues involving the state of health and wellbeing of Americans, namely increasing health concerns due to excessive weight gain.
On June 29, 2015 CrossFit began a campaign to promote awareness of the correlation between excessive sugar intake, subsequent weight gain and higher risk of contracting type 2 diabetes. The promotion was in the form of a Tweet with a picture of a modified Coca-Cola ad with the line “open diabetes” and a quote from Greg Glassman, CEO of CrossFit. The quote was: “Make sure you pour some out for your dead homies.”
Key insights to the CrossFit diabetes campaign
The Tweet and quote garnered hundreds of replies from members and affiliates of the diabetic community stating that the ad is misinforming its audience. There is no evidence to claim that diabetes is caused by excessive sugar intake, but the ad could imply otherwise. Excessive sugar intake can lead to weight gain which does correlate with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, but CrossFit missed the target on that association. People replied saying that the company was ignorant, uninformed, shameful, in poor taste, etc. The Huffington Post published an article that aggregated the issues of political correctness involved in this advertisement.
Rather than apologizing or removing the Tweet CrossFit continued to enforce its stance on diabetes and soda consumption. In some cases the company Tweeted rude or sarcastic comments directly at insulted users.
Musician Nick Jonas is a type 1 diabetic and expressed his outrage with the campaign via Twitter as well by calling CrossFit’s comments “ignorant.” According to an article on The Russells Matt Knox from “Good Morning America” contacted Greg Glassman, CEO of CrossFit, in order to receive a response to Jonas’ Tweets. Glassman responded with the quote below.
The advertisement and quotes by Glassman were obviously very controversial. Many of the users who replied negatively to this advertisement simply wanted CrossFit to clarify that diabetes is not directly caused by consuming sugar, but increased weight gain can lead to a higher risk of contracting type 2 diabetes. In more recent versions of the campaign CrossFit does at least clarify that they are talking about type 2 diabetes.
Why the CrossFit “Open Diabetes” ad was a #socialfail
I think it should be pretty obvious that no advertisement should ever insult any potential consumers. With that being said, there is statistical evidence supporting the correlation between excessive weight gain and having a higher risk of contracting type 2 diabetes. CrossFit attempted to support a worthy cause, but did so in a very offensive manner. They sparked a powder keg with the initial advertisement, and then continued to fuel the flame by replying to upset consumers with sarcasm and blatant insults. The issue would have been partially avoided if CrossFit accepted its mistake and removed the advertisement. Without doubt the most harmful element of this #socialfail is the method that CrossFit and Glassman took in addressing the reasonable public concerns toward the ad with stubbornness and insensitivity.
Instead of prolonging the issue and continuing to offend its audience CrossFit could have made a simple apology and removed the advertisement. Then they could have replaced it with a similar ad that clarifies that they are referring to type 2 diabetes and the increased risk consumers face through gaining excessive weight. Doing so would mend much of the offense taken from the original ad and also continue to raise awareness of type 2 diabetes. Advertisements are meant to inform, or at the very least spark informed discussion, not perpetuate ignorance.
CrossFit Twitter. (2015, Nov 30). [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/CrossFit/status/671427672463966208
Glassman, Greg. (2015, June 29). [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/CrossFit/status/615539464232902656
Greenberg, Riva. (2015, July 6). People Disgusted by CrossFit’s ‘Open Diabetes’ Coke Tweet. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/riva- greenberg/people-disgusted-by-cross_b_7721848.html
Greene, Russ. (2015, July 7). Greg Glassman’s Full Comment on Coca-Cola and Nick Jonas. The Russells. Retrieved from http://therussells.crossfit.com/2015/07/07/greg- glassmans-full-comment-on-coca-cola-and-nick-jonas/
Jonas, Nick. (2015, June 30). [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/nickjonas/status/615873890191998976
(2015, July 2). Nick Jonas Chides CrossFit Over Diabetes Tweet; Company Fires Back. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/nick-jonas-chides-crossfit- diabetes-tweet-company-fires/story?id=32172324