Peloton’s rebrand and new offerings ‘a smart shift’ after years of tumult
The fitness brand is reinventing itself after suffering PR slip-ups, a leadership shakeup and declining revenues. Branding and PR leaders say it just might work.
Peloton is exercising inclusivity in its rebrand / Peloton
Exercise and media company Peloton today unveiled a full brand relaunch, complete with a major ad campaign and the announcement of new app subscription tiers and a gym integration feature.
The rebrand seeks to reposition the brand and shed longtime perceptions about its target audience and place in the market. For one, the brand is combating the idea that it’s primarily a hardware brand; it wants to position its app – on which users can participate in live fitness classes and track real-time performance metrics – as its core product.
What’s more, the effort also seeks to expand the idea of who a Peloton user is. For years, Peloton – which garnered a cult-like following and whose class instructors became influencers and celebrities in their own right – was seen as a brand for consumers with a certain lifestyle and in a certain income bracket. Now, the brand hopes to expand its appeal.
“When making the decision to relaunch, our goal was ultimately to reposition ourselves to reflect the reality of who we are. Over the years Peloton has evolved and we are shifting the perception from in-home to everywhere, from fitness enthusiasts to people at all levels, and from exclusivity to inclusivity,” the company’s chief marketing officer Leslie Berland tells The Drum.
Peloton’s new visual brand identity, Berland points out, “features powerful imagery of actual members, a bold color palette that evokes the energy of a great workout and the afterglow that follows, all reflecting the vibrancy and fullness of everything Peloton has to offer to everyone.”
“Most significantly,” she says, is the rollout of the new Peloton App Free, a new cost-free app subscription option offering 50 classes across 12 exercise disciplines. Berland says the tier “offers an expansive collection of classes, expert instruction and world-class content to anyone, anywhere, for free.”
Along with Peloton App Free, the brand is also debuting two additional subscription tiers. The new Peloton App One level will give users unlimited access to everything the free version provides, plus thousands of other classes across 9 exercise types, like yoga, strength, outdoor walking and meditation. It rings up at $12.99 monthly or $129 annually. The highest tier, dubbed Peloton App+, is, according to a brand statement, “designed for the user who wants frictionless, unlimited access to Peloton’s vast library,” with a couple of exceptions. It includes thousands of equipment-based classes and also promises exclusive content. It costs $24 per month or $240 per year.
The brand is also launching a new content feature called Peloton Gym, which includes video demos and text-based content for strength training exercises designed to be completed in a gym. The brand said in a statement that it hopes the product will “officially [debunk] the myth that the gym is a competitor.”
But beyond a motivation to evolve the brand, the new products, rebrand and attendant marketing campaign also signal what may be Peloton’s final push to secure a stronger future.
The rocky road to today
The luxury fitness brand has had a rollercoaster of the last few years. It first faced controversy in 2019 over a now-infamous holiday ad in which a husband gave his wife a stationary Peloton bike for Christmas – the ad was widely viewed as sexist and out-of-touch.
Despite the blowback, the brand saw continued growth. Then, the pandemic supercharged that growth – with consumers stuck at home, they invested big bucks in at-home workout equipment and fitness classes. Peloton was flourishing.
But then, in 2021, the death of a young child on a Peloton treadmill sparked a wave of bad press and ultimately saw the brand recall thousands of its Tread and Tread+ treadmills. Later that year, the brand found itself in hot water again after it unveiled – then quickly pulled – an ad starring Chris Noth, after sexual assault allegations against the actor surfaced.
Shortly thereafter, the brand’s co-founder and longtime chief executive John Foley came under fire for what colleagues and investors deemed poor leadership and decision-making that contributed to a 75% slide in market value. The executive was ousted in early 2022. A few months later, Peloton said it was ready to bounce back, spelling out strategic plans to invest more into its mobile app and its marketing efforts. But the plan didn’t stop Peloton’s downhill slide; the company laid off around 12% of its staff in October of last year.
A chance to reinvent its image and recover revenue losses
In spite of the ups and downs, branding and PR experts are generally confident that Peloton’s brand relaunch will put it in a position to succeed.
“This is a smart PR shift,” says Chris Harihar, partner at PR and communications firm Crenshaw Communications. “Peloton has always projected an aura of exclusivity, from the high hardware costs to the brand image itself. And it worked for a little while. But a sense of elitism permeated the brand and made it feel inaccessible to a lot of people. That’s a problem when you need more revenue. The new leadership knows this. At a certain point, broadening the audience becomes a necessity, and this marketing evolution serves that purpose, particularly as the business has experienced a big decline.”
The change also points to “the grim realities of hardware-centric fitness startups,” Harihar says, noting that a number of similar startups sold before they hit a growth plateau. He suggests that a business model built on app engagement, original content and subscriptions “is substantially more cost-effective to run.”
And cost-efficiency is likely a high priority for Peloton amid widespread economic uncertainty. Other experts say, however, that current social and economic conditions are likely to work in favor of the brand.
“Yes, they've had some real PR fiascos… but this is a post-Covid marketplace, with post-Covid consumers and a rollercoaster economy where a Peloton, newly rebranded like this, will do just fine,” says Robert Passikoff, founder and president of market research firm Brand Keys.
Passikoff also says that Peloton is viewed as a highly innovative brand among consumers, according to proprietary Brand Keys research – a fact that could aid in its efforts to bolster revenue.
Suggested newsletters for you
But it may not be all rainbows and butterflies during this phase of evolution. “Change can be good, but stability is needed after a volatile few years for Peloton’s brand health, employee morale, and community,” says Dr. Karen Freberg, a professor of strategic communications at the University of Louisville.
For one, relinquishing its brand image of exclusivity and elitism may create a challenge for Peloton as it aims to find ways to connect with new audiences, capture attention and engagement and drive its bottom line. “The brand has been known for their elaborate music collaborations, high profile sessions with their instructors with other brand partnerships and collaborations – [like with] Puma with [instructors] Olivia and Alex, [and instructor] Cody with Dancing with the Stars,” says Freberg. The professor doesn’t believe that members will leave Peloton over its rebrand, but she predicts that the brand will have to “strategize on how to make this new experience for the brand different from any other fitness brand out there.”
She goes on, saying: “They are going to have to do a lot to make this such a unique experience that [the brand] not only [appeals to] customers and investors – but members who are currently part of the community stay. There will need to be more discussions related to the relevance of the brand as well as how to best resonate with their key audiences moving forward.”
When it comes to how the brand will maintain the momentum it’s put into motion with its rebrand, Crenshaw Communications’ Harihar predicts “a substantial advertising push.”
For more, sign up for The Drum’s daily US newsletter here.