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

Police incident in Mount Douglas Park leads to road closure

Officers turning cars away, letting hikers go up trails

PHOTOS: Women’s March through downtown Victoria draws crowds of activists, allies

Attendees of all ages carried instruments, posters with empowering messages

Victoria resident lives well despite dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

New Victoria Conservatory music scholarship recognizes long-time Sidney resident

O. Thomas Webb died in Sidney last year after retiring to the community in 1975

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Ice chunk from truck crushes vehicle windshield on Vancouver Island

None injured, but Nanaimo RCMP say there can be fines for accumulations of ice and snow

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Intense winds en route to Greater Victoria

Winter storm warning in effect for east and west regions while wind warning to hit south and north

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Most Read