Peloton

Many Cringe at How Peloton’s New Ad Treats Its Female Lead, ‘Grace From Boston’

"A year ago, I didn't realize how much this would change me," the ad's protagonist says, in a moment that was widely mocked on Twitter

NBCUniversal, Inc.

An ad about working out has gotten a lot of people worked up for what they say is its portrayal of an unhealthy relationship where a man gives his already fit wife an exercise bike.

They say Peloton, the popular and pricey indoor exercise bike startup that streams its classes online, should have slammed the brakes before releasing its new holiday advertisement, "The Gift that Gives Back."

The 30-second video, which Peloton tweeted Nov. 12 and released on YouTube a week later, shows a man surprising his thin and fit wife, identified in the ad as "Grace from Boston," with a Peloton bike.

Using her cellphone, "Grace" tentatively documents her foray into the world of Peloton workouts: "Alright, first ride. I'm a little nervous, but excited. Let's do this." Soon, she's surprised herself by working out for five days in a row, then getting up at 6 a.m. for a dreaded early morning ride only to find it "was totally worth it."

To the sound of a 90s one-hit-wonder, the seasons pass in the window behind the now-beloved stationary bike, and the camera pulls back to reveal that she's been filming her progress to document her exercise journey for the benefit of her husband.

"A year ago, I didn't realize how much this would change me," she narrates. "Thank you."

The ad has been viewed about 1.5 million times on YouTube as of Tuesday night, driven in part by the buzz on Twitter from people suggesting that "Grace from Boston" should be deeply insulted at what the gift of a piece of exercise equipment would say, as well as how timid she's made out to be about using it.

In one response video viewed more than 3 million times on Twitter, comedian Eva Victor acts out the woman's part (video has explicit language) with some extra commentary — "Seriously, what the hell? What are you trying to say?" — only for her year of Pelotoning to lead her to divorce her husband.

Some of the criticism also centers on how expensive Pelotons are. They clock in at over $2,000 for the machine alone and another $39 per month for the membership, which offers access to live and on-demand classes that stream on the bike's hi-definition screen. Some users aim to get a call-out from the instructors, like the kind "Grace from Boston" got, when they reach a milestone number of rides.

Peloton hasn't responded to NBC News' request for comment, or replied to any of the criticism through its Twitter account.

Still, the backlash hasn't seemed to hurt Peloton's stock, which CNBC noted rose nearly 5% on Monday, when the criticism was at its peak. And while its price dropped Tuesday, so did the market as a whole.

Disclosure: This station's parent company, Comcast, is an investor in Peloton.

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