On Friday, Sean Hunter — who stars in the Peloton commercial as the husband who gifts his wife the expensive exercise bike — opened up about the negative backlash the ad has received.
“People turned down a pretty dark path and it turned into a nasty thing,” the actor and teacher said in an interview with Good Morning America.
“Once something goes viral, and it turns viral, people jump on that negative bandwagon and start to create any dialogue they want,” he continued.
Upon receiving the pricey cycling bike from Hunter’s character — who only utters one line in the 30-second commercial — the ad follows his onscreen wife’s yearlong fitness journey as she records herself working out. The ad ends with the couple watching a video of the wife’s Peloton journey, in which the woman thanks her husband for changing her life.
Twitter users were quick to mock the ad, calling out its supposed message of a husband wanting his fit wife to lose weight and her being “nervous” about riding an indoor bike.
“My image is being associated with sexism, with the patriarchy, with abuse, with these words that I am seeing people write about me — that’s not who I am,” Hunter told GMA, adding that the negative response to the ad makes him question the effects of social media on today’s society.
On Thursday, Hunter shared a statement with Psychology Today where he further detailed the commercial blowback.
“In early September, I filmed a commercial for the Peloton exercise bike company. During the few days on set, I had a wonderful time working with the cast (‘mother & daughter’), and the amazing crew,” he began. “It was an extremely positive experience, and I was excited to see the final clip.”
“In late November, the commercial was posted and reviews started pouring in. At first, they were well received,” he continued. “My acting coach messaged me after seeing the video and said that I looked great!”
But Hunter said things immediately changed “as the video went viral.”
“As my face continues to be screenshot online, I wonder what repercussions will come back to me,” he said. “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.”
He concluded, “The aftermath of the commercial has left me with more questions than answers, and this is only half the story. I reflect on what my co-actor must be dealing with, as she’s the other 25 seconds of the story.”
Despite the flood of social media criticism, Peloton is standing by the holiday commercial.
“We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them,” a company spokesperson recently told PEOPLE in a statement.
“Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey,” the spokesperson continued. “While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.”
Following the ad’s release, the workout brand experienced a seemingly correlated nine percent drop in their market value on Tuesday — their largest single-day drop since October, Markets Insider reported. It cost the company nearly $942 million, bringing their total market value down to roughly $9.4 billion.
Analysts from Raymond James, an investment banking company, told CNBC the drop would not impact the company in the long run.
“While reactions to the holiday ad are disappointing, we do not expect it will adversely affect holiday demand,” the analysts told the outlet. “We do believe Peloton may review its marketing strategy, given the frequency in which its ads are parodied on social media.”
Peloton has a history of drawing ire with their commercials, critics often pointing out that their ads only seem to feature wealthy customers. The company’s bike retails at $2,245, and a membership for the company’s virtual classes costs $39 a month.