Recently Peloton released an ad that is causing quite a bit of controversy. If you have seen the ad, here it is:

According to the New York Times people have described the ad as “classist”, “sexist”, and “tone deaf.”

All of those things are incorrect. Let’s dive in.

Why the Peloton Ad isn’t Sexist

Everyone should do some form of rigorous physical activity. Regardless of your age, height, weight, sex, race, financial status, marriage status, sexual orientation, etc… It behooves every single living human being on planet Earth to do some type of physical activity regularly. If people have very physical jobs or lifestyles, then a good argument could be made for them doing less structured exercise, but the point still stands: Human bodies need to move to survive and thrive. Enabling your significant other to do so is one of the best “gifts” you can give to them. You are literally enabling them to live a happier, healthier and longer life.

The fact that so many people viewed this ad as sexist is because they are assuming characteristics of fictional characters. They assume that the husband doesn’t exercise. They assume that the husband wants the wife to lose weight or “be sexier” (not sure how a bicycle can do that, but we’ll get to that later). And you know what they say about assumptions? They make you look like an a**hole.

While we’re busy assuming things about these fictional people, why can’t we assume that the wife wanted a Peloton bike? In real life situations this seems like it would be very probable given that the Peloton bike retails for over $2,000 and you still have to pay for a monthly subscription to their service, you would have to be an idiot to buy a gift so expensive for someone if they didn’t actually want it. Perhaps the wife had wanted to buy one for a long time but felt guilty about spending the money because she would be spending a lot of money on herself? Maybe she is an avid cyclist and needed some way to train during the winter. Maybe she was a runner suffering from plantarfascitis? Maybe she had mental health issues and her doctor prescribed regular exercise but she was too intimidated to go to a gym? As a gym owner I can attest that almost every person that walks through our door admits to being very anxious their first few times..man, woman, or child.

Speaking of the gym, roughly 60-70% of the clients at Arkitect Fitness are women. I often hear our female clients lament about how they wish their husbands or partners would do something to take care of themselves physically, and often try to get them to join the gym. Wanting your partner to be healthy is absolutely not sexist.

Why the Peloton Ad isn’t Tone Deaf

The argument I’ve been seen here is that the husband is dictating what the wife is doing with her body, that the ad some how suggests that she needs to change her body for him. This highlights an underlying problem with society’s understanding of exercise and health: Body weight and body fat are only a small sliver of your total health, and exercise exists for many reasons outside of weight loss or fat loss. Here is a short list of things that exercise is good for, just off the top of my head:

  • Improved mood
  • Better overall control of your body (proprioception)
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved bone density
  • Improved endurance and stamina
  • Improved mobility and flexibility
  • Improved Strength
  • Risk reduction of
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Osteoperosis
    • Cancer
    • Dementia
    • Parkinsons
    • Autoimmune disorders
  • Improved mental acuity

I could go on, but I think you get the point. I fully understand that there are possibly hundreds of thousands of men in the world with some archaic ideas about the relationships between men and women, but if you assume that every man is like that you are both mistaken and unfortunately pessimistic. The giving of a fitness gift between active couples is a regular occurrence, and the only reasons why Peloton would be marketing towards women specifically is because women are likely their target demographic. In business a target demographic often happens just as much organically as it does intentionally.

It has been my experience over the 20 years I’ve been involved in fitness, that women are more often open to coaching and instruction than men. Of course there are many exceptions, but on average, women tend to have less of an ego regarding getting instruction from someone else on exercising. Peloton isn’t selling a bike, they are selling a service, and that service is live exercise instruction in the comfort of your own home. If you are upset with Peloton advertising to women, then you must hold all the women who have bought a Peloton to the responsibility these outcomes. Marketing doesn’t exist just to convince you to buy something you “don’t need.” Marketing is a way for people who would be interested in your product to find out that it even exists.

As a small business owner we very often have people come in and say “wow I wish I had known about you sooner!” Yeah…I wish you had too, but we don’t have a huge marketing budget. Although exercise is for everyone, not every type or mode of exercise will appeal to everyone. It’s not tone deaf for Peloton to market towards women if that is the predominant group of people who enjoys their product. And last time I checked 9 out of every 10 Americans celebrate Christmas, so I’m pretty sure depicting a man giving a woman a gift isn’t really out of bounds.

Why the Peloton Ad isn’t “classist”

Classism is having prejudice against someone because they belong to a certain “social class” of people. At over $2,000 I would qualify Peloton as a premium fitness service. After all a year’s membership at Arkitect Fitness would be less of an investment, and in my opinion you’d get a much more personal and beneficial experience. However just because some people may not be able to afford the product and service Peloton offers doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t advertise that product and service.

For a business in an ideal world you would only advertise to the people who are a 100% fit for what you sell. After all, advertising is expensive, why would you want to waste time and money advertising to someone who wouldn’t be interested in your product? Ironically it’s possible to advertise more specifically to people than ever before. This is possible by the data farming that happens when you visit websites and they use technology to track your habits. People are upset about this, and claim it’s a violation of privacy. Perhaps it is, but now the public is outraged because Peloton’s ad fell upon eyes of people it wasn’t really meant for? You cannot have this double standard.

Fitness can be free. There are a million things you can do to take care of yourself that cost little-to-no money. However it’s not easy to do because of a lack of education. Kids are not taught about proper nutrition and exercise in school. Think about that…some of the most fundamental aspects of being a human are not taught to kids. Where is the outrage for that? Our modern culture is set of for health challenges. We eat more calories than ever, we are less active than ever, and we are completely out of touch with our bodies…that’s why gyms and “exercise” even exists. If we all had to hunt, gather, farm, for our food while we simultaneously were responsible for building our own homes, shelters, and means of transportation, there would be no need for gyms or fitness or Peloton. But that’s not the world we live in. In 2019 and beyond having someone that understands human physiology and human movement can be a huge help. Much like you are free to defend yourself in a court of law, hiring a professional attorney is usually advised.

A long time ago I realized how important it was to me to have a career where I was making a difference in people’s lives. If I could, I would do what I do for free. That’s not the world we live in however. While our services are not overpriced, they are also not cheap. As such there are people right here in our community who cannot afford to train with us. Like the rest of the world, I have to pay for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, etc… The gym has many expenses such as rent, electricity, water, heat, internet, credit card processing fees, liability insurance, workers comp insurance, book keeping, taxes, payroll, it costs money just to register a business and a trade name. The State of NH has additional fees through the DOJ for gyms. We had to buy equipment, have to maintain that equipment, we go through stationary, we carry inventory of various products, the list goes on and on. These things add up, so we spend money on marketing hoping to net more business than what the marketing cost us (and sometimes this doesn’t happen).

At the end of the day you hope to have a little bit of profit margin leftover so you can continue to grow the business. If every business simply broke even, they would never grow, and a business that isn’t growing is a business that’s dying. I don’t know what Peloton’s success rate is, but I’m willing to bet there are people out there who have made serious life changes and healthy improvements using their products. I’m sorry if you’re interested in their product but cannot afford it, but does that really make them classist? Should doctors not get paid? Would it be worth it if Peloton never existed, the people who improved their health using their products never got any results, just so people wouldn’t have been offended by their ad?

Your Rights

It is within your right to be offended. It is within your right to exercise or not exercise. It is within your right to pay attention to your nutrition or eat doughnuts for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Do whatever it is that you want to do. As long as it doesn’t infringe upon anyone else’s rights or pursuit of liberty, you are free to do it. Just as Peloton is free to advertise to whom they want, however they want. I’ve seen all manner of ridiculous advertising over the years, but in my opinion, this one is well within the normal bounds. It is very strange to me that a 30 second ad which depicts a husband giving his wife a Christmas gift which she enjoys and uses regularly to benefit her health has received so much backlash. We don’t begrudge people for buying their parnter a new television, a gift card to Dunkin Donuts or Amazon, a new cell phone or tablet, or any other number of things that detract from our health.

If you took offense to this ad, you should take a close look at yourself in the mirror and start to question your relationship with your exercise, because I think the stereotype is coming from within you, not Peloton.