- A holiday ad for at-home fitness company Peloton went viral recently, with criticisms spanning claims that it was sexist or just "cringey."
- But some Peloton users are defending the ad publicly, arguing that the ad shows, for example, how motivating the company's classes and community can be.
For all the outcry about the Peloton holiday ad, some of the company's enthusiasts are scratching their heads.
Take Heather Haworth, a California-based in-house counsel for a medical device company, who posted about her thoughts on the ad earlier this week on Facebook. Haworth told CNBC her Peloton bike, a birthday gift last year, has helped her prioritize her health as she juggles work, family and everything else. While Peloton has been widely criticized this week, she and other Peloton users are defending the ad and the company behind it.
"I love this ad, because, in it, I see me," she wrote, sharing the posts to the official Peloton member group on Facebook, along with a Peloton group for moms called "The Official Peloton Mom Group" and another for Peloton "law moms."
She said Peloton reached out to her for permission to share the post with reporters. Haworth said she would be honored and agreed. On Wednesday, Peloton responded to the ad's backlash and sent CNBC Haworth's Facebook post and a few other PDFs of emails it said came from customers praising the ad. (Peloton redacted the last names and email addresses on the PDFs, so CNBC could not verify they were real.)
Peloton has not commented on the ad beyond its statement on Wednesday.
"I totally get it," Haworth said of the holiday ad in an interview with CNBC. "I was shocked to see the TODAY show, with … everyone just lambasting the commercial. It was just such a weird response to the ad that was so off-base from what I was experiencing and what the community experiences. I never saw what any of them saw."
She said she felt moved to post, but did worry people would react negatively. Once she did, she said positive comments started flooding in.
"The only negative comments have been, 'Can we please stop talking about the ad?'" she said.
"I didn't see this whole thing about this poor woman wanting to lose weight and taking selfies without changing her body. I didn't see that at all. That's not what Peloton is about," she said. "Some people have the goal to lose weight. That's not the primary goal. It's overall to be healthy, and to be around for your family for the long term."
A few users then started taking her language and posting on their own profiles, with the hashtag #iamthepelotonwoman. One poster, Kristen Beck Sweeney, said she's had her Peloton bike for two years.
"During that time I've made so many connections with other [hardworking] moms who struggle daily to find time for themselves to work out," she said to CNBC via Facebook Messenger. "Over and over we praise Peloton for giving us the tool to take care of ourselves at home but also for fostering the sense of community that comes with it. I relate with that mom in the commercial. I get up early, I stay up late, I do what I need to do to get my workouts done, but also have a career and take care of my family."
Another Peloton owner, Mollie Lombardi, said she's found the bike helpful as she recovers from brain surgery. Lombardi, a Boston area-based entrepreneur and HR technologist, has Parkinson's Disease. Being able to exercise from home prevents her from having to drive to the gym and change clothes, and she said she finds the classes motivating.
"Since the bike arrived, I've been working my way up to 30 minutes at least five times a week. It's great and so much easier now that I have more energy," she wrote in a recent blog post. "Before, I could work out or live my day, but not do both. In fact, I did a 30- minute ride earlier in the day before I went couch shopping!"
Disclosure: CNBC parent Comcast-NBCUniversal is an investor in Peloton.