Over the last week or so most of the country has been up in arms over a Peloton advertisement featuring a young mom (Grace) as the recipient of a Peloton bike on Christmas morning. The ad continues to follow the Grace’s progress over the course of a year as she incorporates it into her everyday life. Many see it as a misogynistic husband fat shaming his rail thin wife into needing to “lose a few pounds” with an over-the-top expensive gift.
I own a Peloton bike. I also own a Peloton treadmill. And I may have welled up with a couple tears in my eyes as I watched the ad for the first time in the middle of an NFL football game. What caused me to get into my “feels” in between beer commercials during the manliest of barbarian sports that is professional football? The ad connected with me. I completely understood her excitement as she realized she received a great gift she obviously wanted. As she documented her first ride, I flashed back to my first Peloton ride where I nearly puked like I was back in football two-a-days.
Grace continues to document her progress over the course of the year. She rushes home after a long day at work to highlight riding 5 days in a row. She wakes up at 6AM to get a ride in to start her day. Hannah Marie Corbin shouts out “Grace in Boston”, a major highlight for any live Pelton ride that averages a few thousand riders on any given day. She closes with noting her transformation over the last year and that’s what gets me.
I’m very proud of the impact Peloton has had in my life and my “transformation” over the last several years. I’ve watched as Peloton has had a positive impact on my family with my wife regularly working out and my 3-year-old son who daily wants to “get sweaty” with his turn on the treadmill, which doubles as additional motivation for me. But I relate most to this ad because of the community I’ve become a part of centered around self-improvement, positive reinforcement, a good sense of humor and Peloton.
Peloton allows me to maximize my schedule without taking the 15-20 minutes each way to drive to a gym. It’s also allowed me to train for longer races without fear of the “dread mill” effect. This morning I was able to run 6 miles with a world class instructor without having to go to a gym or run in the snow. Any other home-based workout would have been easy to dismiss and leave me shoveling snow as my only workout of the day.
Peloton has successfully “decoupled” the traditional fitness industry in a couple of ways. (Check out Thales Texiera’s theory on decoupling or read his book for more on this concept.) It has figured out how to make home-based fitness fresh and interesting day after day. In my 588 workouts, I doubt I have taken more than a handful of classes twice. While the instructors stay the same, the work is always different.
Peloton is also capitalizing on social media and using it to its advantage. Its instructors are consummate professionals on social media with active Instagram and Facebook accounts. They’re also accessible via direct messages. I’ve had DM conversations with all of the instructors I typically take classes from on things like form, terminology and the occasional, well deserved “great job”.
Beyond instructor engagement, Peloton is benefiting from the use of social media for engagement between its members on private Facebook groups and hashtags on IG. I’m part of a couple Facebook groups that are overwhelmingly positive and have brought people of all walks of life together to understand and root for each other’s progress while forging several unlikely friendships from all over the country.
I’ve followed stories of Peloton help people triumph over cancer (my wife included). I’ve watched as people are able to get into the best shape of their life years after what should have been their peak age for fitness. I’ve witnessed individual’s growth in self confidence as they’ve had a way to make progress on their own terms and have a support system every step of the way.
All of this is what allowed me to connect with a 30 second commercial for a product that is such a large part of my life and why I love it. But that’s also what’s wrong with the ad. People who are Peloton zealots watch the ad and immediately connect with it based on all the experiences they’ve had with it. The near nauseous events, the lengthy streaks demonstrating consistency highlighting days, weeks, and even months, and the personal growth that has resulted from riding a bike that goes nowhere. It doesn’t do a good enough job drawing in non-users and as a result it’s singled out by a society quick to ridicule and even quicker to apply its snark with anything it’s unfamiliar with.
Peloton needs to do a better job demonstrating the connection its user base has with its product and with each other. It attempted to show that it is an in-home workout device that has long term relevance and won’t be another “Seven Minute Abs”, thigh master, or bulky elliptical machine that typically doubles as a laundry rack in a lot of homes. Regardless of your opinion on Peloton, its ad, and it’s products, it is effective and here to stay. Its users are among some of the most loyal and engaging customers as you’ll see in the fitness industry, or any industry. Hopefully Peloton can find a way to market that connection…