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

A convoy of vehicles passes through Heckman Pass on Highway 20 as cleanup operations continued Saturday. Dawson Road Maintenance is asking motorists to watch for crews and equipment working throughout the area. (Dawson Road Maintenance photo/Facebook)
Highway 20 reopens between Anahim Lake and Bella Coola after winter storm Friday

“We appreciate your patience as we continue to clear wood debris and widen sections of the road.”

Bella Coola RCMP are alerting residents that the road between 4 Mile subdivision and downtown will be closed until at least tomorrow. (File image)
Winter storm closes 4 Mile to downtown road in Bella Coola

Police it will remain closed until Saturday, at least

The Bella Coola area also received a large dump of snow as seen here Friday, Nov. 27, but by the afternoon it had started to rain there. (submitted photo)
Update: More than 900 Bella Coola customers without power, expected to last overnight

Highway 20 remains closed between Anahim Lake and Bella Coola Friday, Nov. 27

More than 60 cm of snow has fallen at Ulkatcho First Nation since a snowfall warning went into effect Thursday, Nov. 26. (Ruby Squinas photo)
VIDEO: More than 60 cm of snowfall in Chilcotin since Thursday, Nov. 26

Graham West of Ulkatcho First Nation captures the scene on video

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Most Read