Peloton stands by ad despite accusations of sexism

Peloton holiday commercial sparks criticism

(CBS)- Peloton is standing by a controversial TV ad for the company's pricey stationary bikes despite a flurry of online criticism that the spot promotes unhealthy views of women's body image and marriage.

The maker of high-end fitness equipment said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch that it is "encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support" it has received publicly and privately in defense of the holiday ad.

"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 Peloton spokesperson said.

The ad shows a young, fit woman who is surprised by her spouse with a Peloton bike on Christmas morning. She then embarks on a year-long fitness journey that she films and turns into a video diary for her partner.

The company said the ad reflects that many of its members, who pay monthly fees for access to Peloton workout videos, have been similarly, and happily, gifted one of its pieces of equipment. The spot is intended to "celebrate that fitness and wellness journey," Peloton said.

Many social media users have blasted the ad, reading it as a thin woman's spouse encouraging her to lose weight.

"The newest commercial about the vlogging 116 lb woman's yearlong fitness journey to becoming a 112 lb woman who says 'I didn't realize how much this would change me' is just ri-god-damn-diculous. Come on," one person tweeted.

"Absolutely 100% chance that the husband in the Peloton ad is abusive," another tweeted.

Peloton bikes cost $2,245, while the company's treadmill runs $4,295. But a key selling point is that users can exercise in the comfort of their homes while also connecting to a community of instructors and other riders through interactive training, which costs $39 per month.

Peloton shared messages from fans who praised the TV spot and its message.

"When I see that ad, I see a woman who is lovingly gifted a Peloton bike because it is something just for her," Heather Haworth wrote on Facebook. "I see a professional woman with little time for herself who becomes surprised that she can find a small amount of time for herself to work out...I did not ever see an already slender woman who wanted to lose weight."

A fan named Richard said in an email shared by Peloton: "My wife and I love your ad and if we could afford one would absolutely buy one ourselves. My wife is in great shape, but just like many other women, wants to lose a few extra pounds just to feel her best about herself...I would absolutely buy one for her for Christmas and she would know I'm not saying anything negative or sexist by it...it's what she wants."

Another woman told the company the story of her sister-in-law, whose daughter gave her a Peloton bike after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. "The [P]eloton was her saving grace this year through chemo, a mastectomy and recently radiation," she wrote in an email shared by Peloton.

"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," Peloton said.