Peloton trainer Cody Rigsby’s fame has crossed over onto ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” (Bryan Anselm For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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How Peloton Got Bigger Than the Bike

Peloton and its influencers have become a part of the culture, growing the brand into something much bigger than interactive fitness equipment.

Peloton is everywhere. Yep, the home workout bike that houses your clothes and laundry is infiltrating social media to be more than just an exercise brand, but your next expensive and judgmental best friend.

In a semi-post-pandemic world, the powers of social media and influencers have transformed Peloton into a significant leader in exercise consumerism. From notable celebrity partnerships like Beyoncé to global expansion, Peloton’s mixture of varied trainers and inclusivity among riders has allowed the brand to expand exponentially.

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An Emotional Attachment Beyond the Bike

From GEICO’s gecko to Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, non-human characters have long represented popular brands, but things are changing in the social media era. Consumers want to see themselves in products — they want to see representation and benefit from their purchases.

As Hawke Media founder and CEO Erik Huberman wrote in Forbes, when it comes to building a community around a brand, authority is key, but trust is worth its weight in gold:

“You want your community to have an emotional attachment to your brand. Trust is the most crucial piece of a consumer-brand relationship, and it takes a lot of time and interaction to build that up.”

Since 2012, Peloton has accrued trainer personalities that have generated sponsorships with major companies from Spotify to Adidas and Under Armour. The heavy marketing in consumer persona shows the benefits from celebrity status when selling a product.

For example, Cody Rigsby and  Robin Arzón: Yes, we’ve heard and seen them on Peloton commercials, but both trainers’ influences now extend far beyond simply the company’s bounds. They are media entities of their own, reaching nearly one million followers on Instagram.

Aside from potentially making up to $500,000 a year as a trainer, these emerging influencers are authors, public speakers, and lifestyle gurus. Some of them are even taking on Hollywood. 

As Huberman continues, “People want to humanize a brand and attach a name and face to the company.”

Rigsby has leveraged his intense Britney Spears fandom to steal the hearts of fellow stans. He fills his Peloton classes with twerking and amusing banter often built directly around the pop icon:

“When I play Britney Spears, we what? Fuck shit up.”

And that mixture of unexpectedly tasteful profanity and more inappropriate humor has led him all the way to Dancing with the Stars.

The ABC reality competition hit’s themed “Britney Spears Week” — which premieres Oct. 4 — has Rigsby fans anticipating an all-out choreographed number paying homage to the early 2000s we so desperately miss. His cross-platform popularity has circled back to provide a boost to Peloton, with an added 15,000 participants joining his class since his first appearance on DWTS.

Whether you follow Rigsby or Arzón, their abilities to connect to broader audiences have paid off immensely with the likes of over 1,000 participants in their live classes. 

Peloton’s Personality-driven Marketing

From a social media perspective, the rise in celebrity means more of a microscope over each instructor’s everyday life. From buying new homes to having lavish weddings in Mexico (a la trainer Ally Love), these peeks behind the curtain add entirely new layers to Peloton culture, creating an ecosystem that’s much, much bigger than at-home fitness classes.

There are countless pseudo-reality stars who mix beauty and wellness to broadcast a lifestyle people find possible to attain and impossible to resist. Peloton’s influencers have reworked the formula by adding the all-important special sauce Erik Huberman emphasizes: trust, and all the warmth that comes with it and keeps it grounded. These influencers are getting paid, and the deals from dog brands to Invisalign show the benefits of branching out.

Similar to other major fitness bike brands like SoulCycle, Peloton recently launched its own athletic apparel brand. Ironically Rigsby, Arzón, and Love already had Adidas sponsorships, and were part of the design team for Peloton’s collaboration with Adidas back in March 2021.

Other trainers like Emma Lovewell (Under Armour), Jess Sims (Reebok), and Alex Touissant (Puma) have partnerships, but contractual discrepancies aside, trainers now wear Peloton-branded attire for recorded workouts. Those outside deals have no bearing on the in-class experience, but permit tapping into a broader community of riders and non-riders alike that are brand-loyal to a legacy apparel brand. For Peloton and its influencers, that’s a win-win.

The variety of personalities offered through Peloton’s digital platform gives each rider a choice to find someone relatable. Through signature trainer sign-offs and specific hashtags, some basic algorithms can showcase the net effect and overall reach of every class. And the shift toward digital dependence and convenient consumerism under COVID-19 has led to an added layer to the workout: a fabulous lifestyle.

Those who take the Peloton plunge aren’t doing it for the bike; they do it for the community — one led by compelling influencers who will make them laugh during an uphill, yes, but will also snap a selfie clinking champagne flutes in the Hamptons and break it down with Cheryl Burke in primetime on ABC.

All told, Peloton’s method of marketing through personality has paid off immensely. Social media’s evolution means that the “15 minutes of fame” is often more like 15 seconds now, but the flipside of this new paradigm is that the idea of “going viral” is no longer unattainable. Peloton isn’t fighting this phenomenon — they’re embracing it.

The stay-at-home nature of the pandemic only supercharged this model. And as Peloton’s brand evolves, adding trainers to the family — and specifically new types of personalities, backgrounds, and tastes — only gives the rider a better, more customizable marketplace of experiences in our great age of content curation.

As for the company itself, Peloton has expanded to Australia over the summer and currently has showrooms in the US, UK, Canada, and Germany. And while the roads ahead often come with a steep incline, what this brand is peddling will continue to prove itself as much more than just pedaling.