Peloton ‘male fantasy ad’ could dent brand image
Peloton is so far sticking by its widely mocked holiday ad. The spot, called “The Gift that Gives Back,” continued to air Tuesday evening on networks including ESPN, Lifetime, Bravo and HGTV, according to ad-tracking service iSpot, even as criticism grew.
The ad, about a woman whose husband gifts her an apparent life-changing exercise bike, sparked a gender backlash that clearly clashed with any seasonal cheer the brand was expecting.
“It’s a complete male fantasy ad,” says Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist, noting that the spot could inspire men to be “gifting heroes” and get “skinnier spouses.”
Indeed, many consumers complained that the woman in the spot was already quite fit, and that it reflected poorly on the husband to expect her to be more trim.
Peloton released a statement about the ad on Wednesday.
"We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them," a spokeswoman said. "Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey. While we're disappointed in how some have
misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by--and grateful for--the outpouring of support we've received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate."
The brand confirmed that the commercial was created by Mekanism, which has worked on previous campaigns for the fitness brand. Representatives from Mekanism did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Some analysts expect the ad to be pulled as the backlash grows. Justin Patterson, an analyst with Raymond James, expects the ad will be pulled “due to the online furor,” according to a post on investment news site Seeking Alpha. The controversy surrounding the ad drew coverage from a wide range of mainstream news and entertainment sites, including NPR, CNN, CBS and People.
The ad has been airing on TV since Nov. 4, according to iSpot. But the online criticism did not take hold until Monday as the 30-second spot incited sarcasm, spoofs and outrage against the upscale brand, which sells its bikes for upwards of $2,000. By Tuesday afternoon, Peloton’s stock was down 10 percent, a steep drop for the company, which only began trading publicly in September.
“They created a conversation about the ultra-thin, perfect model—clearly not an actress—getting even more perfect,” says Yarrow. “It’s overdone, hokey and because of that, memorable and worth talking about.” However, she cautions that while the ad might not hamper holiday sales, particularly for those wannabe gifting heroes, it may “dent the image of the company to women going forward.”
Meanwhile, Peloton competitors are ramping up. Equinox and SoulCycle recently began selling their own home bike offering, where consumers can stream classes at home on SoulCycle stationary bikes; those products will begin shipping in early 2020.
This story has been updated to include Peloton's response.