Yesterday morning Battlefrog dropped a metaphorical bomb on its racers, announcing the suspension of the 2016/2017 racing season, effective immediately.
An outpouring of emotions followed, mostly centered on sadness and anger from racers and former employees alike. Everyone seemed shocked to hear that Battlefrog had cancelled the remainder of their races for this season, myself included. There were plenty of people who didn’t believe it at first. Just the previous day they were promoting their brand as always and then a day later everything is cancelled? Despite rumors of them not making a profit due to low numbers, somehow many in the OCR world hoped that Battlefrog would pull through. It was not to be though.
WHY I THINK THEY WEREN’T AS SUCCESSFUL AS THEY HOPED
It costs a lot of money to put on an obstacle race- in an earlier publication where Joe DeSena was interviewed he stated it cost approximately $300-400,000 per race. For those wondering why OCR is so expensive- that’s why. In order to turn a profit from races such as these, companies need to see high turnout. It’s no secret that Battlefrog has been struggling in that area. However, I think their main downfall has been the fact that they tried to do too much too soon.
Between 2015 and 2016, Battlefrog increased the amount of events in the US from 16 events in 2015 to 44 events in 2016. That’s a 175% increase. Based on the numbers above, that means they went from putting out an average of 4.8 million dollars to 13.2 million dollars. Without having the revenue to support that, I’d imagine it was hard to continue producing major events. In reality, Battlefrog probably should have increased by a smaller margin to avoid a high loss. In addition to the increase of events, they also added a 24 hour BFX (Battlefrog Extreme) separate event in Miami and shifted their focus to their TV series, the Battlefrog College Championship.
This is what they intend to focus on in the future, according to this article written by Mud Run Guide earlier the day the cancellation of events was announced. Not surprisingly this caused outrage among the OCR community as many felt that the owners were out to line their own pockets instead of produce the high quality events we had all come to expect from Battlefrog. I have to admit I feel the same. Shifting their focus to a TV series completely defeats the entire purpose of OCR. The point of OCR has been and always will be to get people up off their couches and get them active and living the healthy lifestyle. I know plenty of people who started living healthier lives because of OCR and have continued to live this lifestyle, enjoying fitness for the first time in their lives. OCR is a people’s sport…it’s backbone is the racers who spend their weekends out on the course, racing and volunteering. The people are what makes this sport great and its accessibility has inspired many, myself included. Many race directors pride themselves on the community OCR has created. However, Battlefrog seems to have abandoned the very community that has supported them from the very beginning. Putting all their eggs in one basket doesn’t seem to be the best idea they have had, and everyone who follows OCR news knows they’ve made some very questionable decisions. In fact, I wrote a post about some of them here.
BATTLEFROG’S ‘NEW’ POSITION…
I spoke with Devin Glines, former Director of Elite Races/Pro Team and the Ambassador Program about the recent changes Battlefrog has been making. Here’s what he had to say:
“Battlefrog was started by a team of experts and enthusiasts who were on a mission to bring health and fitness to families and individuals across the country, and to raise awareness for NAVY charities and other good causes. The company culture was incredible when I first started in late 2014. It was an organization that lived and breathed fitness and sport at every level. A massive shift took place in upper management ushering in a new set of goals and ideals and a new culture of business. Battlefrog never recovered from that change. Key employees were let go over and over again, and those that remained suffered increased workloads and lower morale. This cycle continued downward to the end it seems. The upper management valued profits over people, cheap labor over passion, and to produce a TV show instead of a race that changed people’s lives. If I am upset that is the main reason. The real team at Battlefrog worked like dogs even in the face of al of the mismanagement that was going on because we still had the passion to go out and put on an amazing event that could be the catalyst for life change. The management took advantage of us and that spirit and have turned it into a TV show. What a sad way to see such a great company commit suicide.”
While the TV shows are popular and surely lucrative, a majority of the appeal is being able to do the races ourselves. Taking that away is causing many fans and supporters to withdraw their support, which in turn will probably lead to less views on their shows, as many of the people who watched it in the first place and made it popular were most likely OCR athletes. Battlefrog should be placing the focus on what made their races popular in the first place- the racers, both amateur and professional. Not everyone is a pro or college athlete and this move narrows the pool of potential racers drastically. I feel bad for the employees who lost jobs because of this. It’s clear to see that the people in charge in Battlefrog didn’t care about their racers or employees and made poor decisions that led to this moment.
HOW THIS AFFECTS THE FUTURE OF OCR
The loss of Battlefrog brings a huge hole in the nationwide OCR world. In terms of competitive races, Battlefrog and Spartan were the most popular who provided events across the country for racers to attend. Savage has started to become more popular with their Savage Pro heat, however, they still only cater to the East Coast and Midwest. Likewise, Conquer the Gauntlet, while receiving excellent reviews, has a limited amount of races and currently doesn’t exist in the southeast. Bonefrog has been expanding down the east coast and also receives rave reviews but that doesn’t fill the hole for west coasters. Tough Mudder also has nationwide events but as they are a “challenge” and not a “race” many have opted out in the past. However, next year they are adding 6 8-hour events that also have a competitive option to their circuit, which may draw in other participants who have so far avoided becoming a part of Mudder Nation. There is a huge opportunity here for a company to expand and take advantage of Battlefrog’s departure.
Honestly, I’m sad to see Battlefrog go because, while I didn’t agree with all of their decisions, they were a high quality event that truly challenged the participants to better themselves and give it their all. I regret not having the opportunity to participate in their BFX option. There’s no telling what the future holds for this company, but I’m sure they will no longer enjoy the popularity among racers that they did in the past!