How Content Made Peloton the Fastest-Growing Company in New YorkBy Tessa Wegert November 10th, 2016
At the beginning of 2016, Peloton Cycle asked its employees to share their New Year’s resolutions on YouTube. Besides getting more sleep and drinking more water, there was a common theme: They wanted to be more ambitious.
Turns out Peloton executives had the same idea.
Last month, the at-home fitness brand took the number one spot on the Crain’s New York Business 2016 Fast50, a list of the fastest-growing companies in New York. With a staggering two-year growth rate of 2,829,405 percent, the business is on track to increase its revenue by a factor of five this year.
Founder and CEO John Foley describes Peloton as a software, hardware, and content company. A former engineer and competitive cyclist, Foley started Peloton in 2012 because he and his wife couldn’t find the time to go to the gym but felt existing at-home workouts fell short. Capitalizing on the growth of spin classes, he paired indoor cycling with progressive technology and high-energy rides that users could access at their convenience. Customers buy the bike and then take group fitness classes delivered over video.
Peloton, which now has 20 national retail stores, currently streams 12 hours of content every day from its Chelsea cycling and production studio. “It’s like a Netflix library, but for fitness classes,” Foley said. Users can live stream the subscription-based classes or watch them on demand. Touchscreen tablets on the bikes allow riders to monitor their performance and get immediate feedback from instructors.
Those instructors, a group of elite athletes and cycling experts, are at the center of the Peloton experience. They provide motivation and support, responsibilities that come with lucrative rewards. According to Inc. magazine, some Peloton instructors earn a six-figure salary for teaching between 10 and 15 classes a week.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Peloton built its marketing strategy around its indispensable employees.
“Celebrity matters so much in this world,” Foley said. “Think about Williams-Sonoma selling a new blender from [chef] Mario Batali. Batali is all over social media. It’s effectively a co-branded sponsorship between two brands. The same goes for the New England Patriots and Tom Brady. For us, the other brand is our celebrity instructors. We try to have a balance between both.”
Social media is the marketing channel of choice for showcasing Peloton instructors. Peloton’s in-house marketers work with its internal creative, photography, and videography teams to develop content for all major social networks. On Instagram and Facebook, Peloton uploads one to three posts per day. The company blog, Cadence, gets new content two to four times per week. On Snapchat (@pelotoncycle), which is currently a priority for the brand, Peloton posts several clips of its instructors each day, along with images from special events and photo shoots.
“They have big personalities, and we like when they come out.”
The idea is to familiarize riders with the instructors and their unique personalities while also building up excitement for the classes and offering a behind-the-scenes look at the Peloton world. The channels are connected, taking riders on a content journey that helps them understand the brand’s ethos.
“A lot of what we do is focused on telling the Peloton story on different outlets,” said Carolyn Tisch Blodgett, VP of brand marketing, “and really using our instructors as brand ambassadors as the voices of Peloton.”
For example, after welcoming new instructor Ally Love, the company posted a Q&A with her on Cadence. Riders could watch a minute-long YouTube interview in which she explains her motivation for joining Peloton, tells the inspiring story of her road to fitness, and shares her musical preferences so that riders know what to expect from her classes.
On Instagram, where Peloton has 34,000 followers, the brand shared photos of Love including a group shot of its instructors taken after her “debut ride.” Many Peloton instructors have their own hashtags to help riders find their content (e.g. #LoveSquad).
They also have their own Facebook fan pages, which Peloton’s marketing team oversees. “They have big personalities, and we like when they come out.” Foley said. “But we have close to one hundred and eighty-four thousand global members now, so we have to give [our instructors] some assistance with managing their online presence.”
That assistance includes setting up Snapchat and Instagram takeovers as well as instructor-led Google Hangouts, all of which let the rider community interact directly and ask questions, as one would in a SoulCycle class.
While instructor related content is essential, Peloton also invests in educational content that is mainly intended to help riders reach their fitness goals.
On Twitter, the company promotes its seasonal scenic rides, encouraging users to “cycle through New England fall colors” and “climb the Canadian mountains.”
In October, the company dipped its toes into Facebook Live for the first time with “Beyond the Ride: Yoga.” Streamed from its studio, the event, also available through Peloton’s iPhone and iPad app, garnered close to 9,000 views within two weeks.
“We’re trying to be creative with new forms of media that fall somewhere between earned media and more traditional marketing,” Foley said. Other media investments include Facebook ads, retargeting, search engine marketing, email marketing, TV, and print.
Every company has an opportunity to market its employees, but because of its unique business model, Peloton has to rely on that tactic more than others. And now because of that commitment to content, nearly 200,000 customers are happy to come along for the ride.