Backlash to Peloton ad could boost exercise equipment maker’s sales, experts say

The controversial video received about 20,000 downvotes on Peloton’s YouTube channel

A controversial ad for Peloton Interactive’s expensive stationary bike is unlikely to dampen the company’s holiday sales, and may actually boost them thanks to increased publicity, experts say.

“I would actually say it’s going to have a positive affect on the company’s line,” said David Soberman, a professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, speaking of Peloton’s Christmas ad.

The New York-city based company best known for its stationary bike offers a “basics package” which costs $2,950 for the bike, warranty, delivery and set up, according to its website. Shoes, accessories and a monthly membership that offers live classes via a video feed cost extra.

The advertisement, which was released in November but went viral on social media this month, depicts a husband giving his wife a Peloton bike for Christmas. She proceeds to record her exercise journey over the course of a year — first hesitantly joining a live class through the screen on her bike and eventually starting to cycle consistently. At the end, the couple sit on a couch watching a video the wife made of her journey, which concludes: “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me. Thank you.”

Critics slammed the ad as sexist, claiming the husband’s gift of an exercise machine insinuates that his wife is out of shape.

The video received about 20,000 downvotes and 16,000 thumbs up on Peloton’s YouTube channel. Comments under the video were turned off. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

READ MORE: Newspaper’s ‘Photos with Satan’ ad appears on late-night TV

Soberman said it’s not a bad ad, though it fails to show the true value of the product by not demonstrating clearly what difference it made in the woman’s life over the course of the year.

But it doesn’t strike Soberman as offensive.

“I think one of the things that actually occurs in social media is that you can get a reaction from people who are not necessarily in your target market,” he said, arguing Peloton’s target demographic — intense exercise buffs — won’t find the spot problematic, but will like it.

This group will recognize fitness isn’t just about appearance and weight, he said, but can be measured on many other seemingly invisible metrics, like endurance. They won’t be dismayed by an ad in which a thin woman receives a piece of exercise equipment and appears visibly unchanged after a year.

A truly offensive ad, he said, would upset even those within a company’s target demographic.

He recalls widespread outrage to a Nivea ad with the phrase: “White is purity.” The company apologized and pulled the ad.

The negative response to Peloton’s ad seems to be overblown, said Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto.

Some of the backlash centres on the gender roles, with the men bestowing the bike to his wife, he said.

But women appear to compose the company’s target demographic, Middleton noted, citing the company’s other ads and websites that predominantly feature female consumers. So in the context of a holiday advertisement that centres on a gift exchange, it made sense for the woman to receive the present, he said.

“We’re trying to incite men to give a gift to their wives or girlfriends,” he said.

READ MORE: General Motors disputes UNIFOR’s Super Bowl ad

There’s a low level of risk that the backlash will hurt the company, said Middleton. Brands’ reputations can be damaged by negative publicity, he said, but in this case, it’s likely not a big enough issue.

It could help the company, Middleton added, by generating buzz in the daily news grind and on social media.

“It will put Peloton into people’s minds more,” he said, adding he can think of a few people in his life who might ask their loved ones if they’ve seen the ad, while mentioning they wouldn’t mind that gift this year.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

RCMP calls decrease in Campbell River

Total for year up compared to 2019

Campbell River RCMP ask drivers to slow down in construction zones

Highlight lower speed through the Hwy. 19A project

Recycling depots in Campbell River, Courtenay to close

The unstaffed recyling depot at Strathcona Gardens Recreation Complex is set to close July 1

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Most Read