Just 11 months on from joining ailing fitness brand Peloton, CMO Leslie Berland has left to take up the top marketing job at Verizon Communications, the American telecoms multinational.
She joined Peloton in January after seven years as CMO at Twitter, now X, following Elon Musk’s takeover. She will start at Verizon on 9 January 2024.
Peloton was a pandemic success story, with revenue soaring 99.5% as people across the globe turned to exercising at home. But the growth wasn’t sustainable, and by the time Berland was appointed the business’s losses had boomed to $2.8bn (£2.3bn) for the year ending 30 June 2022.
Berland was tasked with turning the brand around. In May, Peloton revealed a big brand relaunch to help it get towards growth. Speaking with Marketing Week at the time, she described it as “critical”.
Peloton unveils ‘critical’ brand relaunch, as the struggling company eyes growthThe business wanted to move away from being “perceived as an at-home bike company” and instead eyed up a positioning as a fitness lifestyle brand. However, despite the relaunch, it didn’t bet on its brand campaign as a long-term platform. “It’s more a moment in time to show where the company, the product and the community are today,” said Oliver Snoddy, Peloton’s VP for global brand.
Peloton hadn’t necessarily upped its marketing spend for the relaunch, Berland said, but was instead “using a good amount of the investment in different and new ways”.
It appeared a somewhat uphill battle for Peloton to rebrand, given the issues it had encountered in the last two years. The brand recalled 2.2 million bikes in May 2023 after reports the seats were breaking and causing injuries.
A Peloton bike was also used in a Sex and the City reboot scene where Mr Big has a heart attack in 2021, throwing the brand into a PR crisis. It tried to fix this by bringing in Chris Noth, who played the character, for an ad with a turnaround time of 48 hours. Days later, Peloton pulled the ad when sexual assault allegations were made against Noth.
Peloton to reinvest in building awareness after significant cost cuttingDistancing itself from its embattled products with a relaunch focused on its app and fitness class offerings made sense.
In a statement, Berland expressed her belief in the “power of Peloton and its future”.
She said: “We revitalized the brand, expanded our reach and relevance, and we engaged prospective customers across new segments and demographics. While this move is bittersweet, I’m excited for what’s next, and I take heart knowing Peloton’s talented and passionate marketing team will continue the important work of bringing the magic of Peloton out front and center.”
Ahead of her start date at Verizon, the company’s CMO Hans Vestberg praised Berland’s ability to transform the marketing efforts of “some of the most iconic brands”.
“She brings a combination of creativity and business acumen that will help steer and scale our marketing strategy while capitalizing on our next phase of growth,” he said.
Berland will lead on all aspects of the business’s global brand and marketing strategy. She said: “Verizon’s brand is at an exciting inflection point as the fundamental need for human connection has never been more critical.”
It’s not yet clear who will replace Berland at Peloton. Peloton CEO praised Berland in a statement, saying: “In a short period of time, she revitalised our brand, broadened our reach and relevance, and enhanced our team culture.”