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

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

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

school
Rimbey Christian School building projects nearing completion

New gym, soccer field and skating rink will be open to community use as well

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. (File photo)
Wolf Creek and Wetaskiwin school boards ‘reassured’ by letter from LaGrange

Boards urge the Alberta government to honour commitments to Indigenous peoples

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta now has 17,743 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed eight additional virus-deaths Monday afternoon including one in central zone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Central zone up to 1,249 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer sits at 257 active COVID-19 cases

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season’s top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Curling Canada has provisional approval for Calgary’s hub-city concept from Alberta Health

Most Read