Will we see more of Peloton’s surprisingly controversial “The Gift That Gives Back” commercial this weekend during college football conference championship games and NFL Week 14 contests?

Though the campaign has run since early November and was posted to YouTube Nov. 21, the ad became a national topic on social media during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend while many people were at home watching TV (football, movies, TV shows, etc.) and seeing it for the first time.

The 30-second spot depicts a woman who receives a Peloton exercise bike for Christmas and proceeds to spend the next year filming herself using the stationary bike. That fueled the imagination of many viewers who perceived the woman, already fit and beautiful, in the ad as trying to appease the husband who bought her the gift by showing him a video compilation of her workout sessions.


That interpretation has cast the husband as a villain, implying that his wife isn’t thin enough or needs to stay trim.

Others took that angle down a darker path, imagining that the exercise bike represented an abusive relationship.

As expected, Peloton has pushed back against that perception of the ad. (The backlash led to speculation that it fueled a drop in Peloton’s stock price on Tuesday, though the overall stock market has been down.) A company spokesperson sent statements to CNN saying the uproar over the commercial is a wild misinterpretation of what was intended.

“While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial,” said the Peloton spokesperson, “we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.”

In the meantime, the actor who portrays the husband in the commercial is worried that the backlash will cause an incorrect perception of him.

“My 5 seconds of air time created an array of malicious feedback that is all associated with my face,” Sean Hunter told Psychology Today (via Business Insider).

“As my face continues to be screen shot online, I wonder what repercussions will come back to me,” Hunter continued. “I pride myself on being a great teacher and developing actor, and I can only hope that this affects neither. I’m grappling with the negative opinions as none of them have been constructively helpful.”

Hunter went on to ask why people feel the need to create “additional narratives to the story” and wonders what experience the actress portraying the supposedly aggrieved wife in the ad is now dealing with. As of yet, she hasn’t been identified nor spoken publicly about the Peloton commercial.

Will Peloton continue running the ad and capitalize on the publicity it’s created? Or will the social media uproar compel the company to go with different ads during the holiday shopping season?

[Business Insider]

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.