Poor Peloton. The latest mishap to tax the brand is losing its CMO.
After less than a year on the job, Peloton Chief Marketing Officer Leslie Berland is resigning, effective Dec. 31, according to a company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Berland, who is taking the CMO job at Verizon Communications, joined Peloton in January following her exit from Twitter shortly after Elon Musk acquired the tech company in 2022.
Her departure follows Peloton’s recent financial results reporting for the first quarter of its fiscal year in which it was announced that the company is still losing money and subscribers.
Total revenue for the first quarter was $595.5 million, with $180.6 million from connected fitness segment revenue and $415 million from subscription revenue, a decline of 3% from the year-ago period and a dip of 7% from the previous quarter, per Marketing Daily.
Berland replaced Dara Treseder, who was the lead marketer (senior vice president of marketing, membership and communications) at Peloton from August 2020 to January 2023 and left to become CMO at Autodesk.
Some might be quick to point to CMO churn as the reason behind the departures. There used to be a statistic batted about that the average CMO tenure was only 18 months, but that no longer holds true. But in truth, the average tenure of Fortune 500 CMOs is only two months shorter than the C-suite average.
The average tenure of Fortune 500 CMOs in 2022 was 51 months or 4.2 years, down slightly from 4.5 years in 2021. By comparison, the average tenure among CMOs of the top 100 advertisers was lower, at 3.3 years, according to a CMO tenure study by SpencerStuart. That’s still longer than Peloton’s top marketers are sticking around.
During her short tenure at Peloton, Berland tried to reposition the brand by promoting the different types of workouts the company offers on its app, perThe Wall Street Journal.
“Its latest ad effort, which began in May, featured people of all ages, sizes and fitness levels using the app to participate in many of the different activities that the company now offers, from running to rowing to weightlifting to yoga,” according to the newspaper. “The effort was a shift from Peloton’s previous positioning as a high-end stationary bike company.”
Peloton is trying to find its footing, including partnering with a number of other companies and organizations including the Liverpool Football Club, the University of Michigan, Lululemon, New York Road Runners, the NBA and WNBA.
But there are already naysayers about the partnerships. Forbes says the Peloton-Lululemon mashup, which launched Nov. 1, is already “leaving a trail of discontent among users. Complaints filled the almost 1,000 comments made in response to Lululemon Studio’s instagram launch-day post."
Despite efforts to attract new members, the total is dropping — Peloton has 6.4 million members, down 4% from last year’s 6.7 million, according to its latest earnings announcement.
The company, once the golden child of the home fitness movement that saw its heyday during the pandemic, seems to face PR blow after blow, including the December 2021 death of beloved “Sex and the City” character Mr. Big, who dies after a Peloton workout on the show’s sequel, “And Just Like That.” Peloton's share price plunged 11% just hours after the episode aired.
The brand faced something of a déjà vu moment after a scene in “Billions” that saw another fictional character nearly suffering the same fate as Mr. Big, according to the Daily Mail, which asked in a May 2023 post, “Has Peloton run out of road?”
In real life, in 2021, Peloton shares plunged 24% as the company struggled to recover from another voluntary treadmill recall sparked by an infant's death and 29 other injuries. Last May, the company had to recall 2 million of its bikes after it received 35 reports of the seat post breaking and detaching from the bike during use, per the Daily Mail.
All the marketing in the world can’t make up for both the fictional and real-life fatalities and injuries with which the brand has become associated.