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Brand Spotlight: Peloton & the ‘Gifted Bike’ Ad

January 22, 2020

We’ve all seen this viral ad by now; a woman is gifted a Peloton stationary bike, which sends her off on a year-long fitness journey that she records on her smartphone to view a year later, all set to the tune of Tal Bachman’s “She’s So High.” What may have started out as a seemingly harmless ad to promote a new piece of exercise equipment, however, has drawn significant backlash from social media users, who accused the ad of being sexist and tone-deaf. Others were quick to come to the ad’s defense, but such is the nature of our new digital world, the die was cast, and a controversy was born.

Because the internet never misses an opportunity to exaggerate, well, anything, we now find ourselves caught between opinionated users, internet memes, and satirical spin-offs (we see you, Aviation Gin). With all this drama, one would assume the ad was a failure, right?

Not Necessarily

Even though this ad drew a lot of (not always positive) attention, it is important to keep in mind a few factors, like the ad’s target market. Given the high price tag of the Peloton stationary bike (around $3,000), a veteran fitness enthusiast is more likely to have heard of Peloton and intend to break out their checkbook than someone who has never ridden a stationary bike before.

Using Phoenix Brand Effect, we were able to identify a few key groups using Phoenix’s proprietary health & wellness segmentation: those who were classified as Physically Fit, Healthy Eaters/Drinkers, and Health Slackers.

In terms of Likeability, the ‘Gifted Bike’ ad performed well among the Physically Fit and Healthy Eaters/Drinkers (11 and 10 percentage points above the norm, respectively), and below average for the Health Slackers (14 percentage points below the norm). Not only that, but compared to the other Peloton ads, the ‘Gifted Bike’ actually performed the highest for Branding and Likeability, indicating that the ad not only resonated with viewers, but it was actually well-liked. It makes you wonder if the vocal minority and eager bandwagoners were the main drivers behind the severe backlash the ad received.

Let’s Back Up a Bit

Over the past six months (and primarily through the holiday season), Peloton has put a lot of support and media weight behind their entire ad portfolio, which features their low-impact treadmills, interactive workout classes, and of course, stationary bikes.

Taking a look at Peloton’s ads in terms of segmentation, Breakthrough and Branding for all Peloton ads tended to be higher for those classified as Physically Fit. Not only that, but Likeability scores were even higher for the Physically Fit and Healthy Eaters/Drinkers. In other words, while ‘Gifted Bike’ performed well for those particular segments, it wasn’t entirely out of the ordinary for Peloton ads as a whole, which have already been high-performers to begin with. Between October and the New Year, our trend data also shows a continual increase in Brand Linkage, or viewers recognizing the ads as belonging to Peloton. Coupled with their large media spend and viewers’ heightened awareness of the controversial ad, Peloton has gone from being a niche brand in the health and fitness market to a recognized household name.

So, What Does This All Mean?

People can talk smack about something until they’re blue in the face, but numbers don’t lie. Even though this ad (and evidently, Peloton) made a big splash on social media this holiday season, our data indicates that not only did the ad perform well to its target audience, but helped propel Peloton’s brand awareness into the New Year. They say all press is good press, and this particular controversy did a great job of raising the profile of the brand to a larger-scale audience who, under different circumstances, may not have otherwise heard of Peloton.

This situation also brings to light the importance of real-world, in-market performance measurement that can examine all factors of your advertising, especially in the wake of controversy. The ability to fully understand how your ad is performing, beyond the Upfront Metrics and down to the specific consumer segments, is critical for effective ad and brand management.

To find out more about how the experts at Phoenix can help you analyze your brand and communications, contact us. 

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