What better way to show your partner you love her this Christmas than the gift of an exercise bike with a gruelling schedule of 6am workouts?
The Peloton bike company saw its share price plummet by over nine per cent on Tuesday following the launch of its new Christmas advert, which was criticised as sexist.
The bikes, which cost £1,990 for the basic package, come with virtual access to live exercise classes beamed from a New York studio.
Entitled ‘The Gift That Gives Back’, the advert features a man presenting his wife with the stationary bike on Christmas morning.
She makes mobile phone videos to send to her husband, charting her progress over 12 months. “I’m a little nervous but excited,” she says before her first session, but is soon informing him that she has worked out five days in a row.
At one point she is shown reluctantly waking up at 6am to haul herself out of bed for a workout.
By the end, she tells him: “A year ago, I didn’t realise how much this would change me. Thank you.”
The advert was ridiculed as it began circulating on social media. “A 30-second tale of one woman’s desperate journey into wellness,” said one user. Others found it sinister, suggesting the gift symbolises “when your insecure, controlling other half doesn’t want you going to the gym”.
Twitter users also pointed to the woman’s anxious expression – “If Peloton is so great, why does the woman in the video never look happy?” – and the fact she was in perfect physical shape before receiving the bike: “The vlogging 116lb woman’s yearlong fitness journey to becoming a 112lb woman who says ‘I didn’t realise how much this would change me’ is just ri-god-damn-diculous. Come on.”
The video attracted more than two million views on YouTube. A comedian, Eva Victor, made a spoof version, which culminated in her presenting her husband with divorce papers.
Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist, told Ad Age magazine that Peloton had created “a completely male fantasy ad” which could “dent the image of the company to women going forward”.
The US company was founded in 2012 and produced its first bike in 2014. It has enjoyed a rapid rise after initially raising funds through a crowd-funding campaign.
The founder, John Foley, previously worked for the Barnes & Noble book chain and had the idea for Peloton after deciding there was a gap in the market for home-based spinning classes.
The company has developed a cult following and its first London studio is scheduled to open in Covent Garden next year.
Peloton has sold 577,000 bikes and treadmills and has 1.4 million members, according to the company’s own data. It posted a net loss of $195m this year but Foley said in a recent interview with Bloomberg that this is down to investment and he expects the company to be profitable by 2023.
“We have built an incredible company – the foundation is great, the economics are great, the business model is great, the team is great. So we feel like we are special,” he said.
The Peloton spokesman said: “We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them,” a company spokesperson said. “Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey. While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.”