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The Specialized Turbo S Playboy Edition was launched at a Berlin bike show alongside women dressed as Playboy Bunnies, which some found offensive

Specialized has found itself at the centre of a sexism row after a limited edition Playboy e-bike was unveiled at a Berlin bike show alongside women dressed in Playboy Bunny costumes.

Although the bike was intended for a German market some Brits in attendance at the Berlin Fahrradschau over the weekend expressed shock and disappointment at the association between Playboy and Specialized.

Some complained the marketing was outdated, and discordant with Specialized’s position as an aspirational brand for women, while others say the product's marketing was lost in translation, and German clientele at the show - both male and female - enjoyed the bike, and the presence of the women.

Monika Zamojska, cycle clothing brand House of Astbury co-founder, spotted the “Playboy Bunnies” at the Berlin Fahrradschau over the weekend, and says she feels the marketing contributes to a gender imbalance in the cycling industry and in the sport. 

Zamojska told road.cc: "The reaction were mixed, some people did happily take photos with the models, but not many. A lot of them walked straight past the stand. People I spoke to at the show felt simply uncomfortable with that.

"These women were there to simply to look pretty next to the bike, and reducing women to just their appearance is what makes it so hard for female customers, athletes and women working in the industry to be treated seriously. We are not here to look pretty, we mean business. 

"Women have the right to be represented by the industry in the same way as men do and not to be used as a tool to market products to the male audience.

"It might have been a product and a campaign targeted at the local market, but that does not justify it, especially that it only takes one tweet for the whole world to see it."

The editor of Total Women’s Cycling was among those who expressed disappointment at the appearance of Playboy Bunnies.

In the UK Specialized positions itself as an aspirational brand for women.

However, the bike is not for sale in the UK. Specialized produced 40 limited edition bikes in black with gold details and Playboy logos, and are marketing it just in Germany. 

turbo_playboy_vertical.jpg

Specialized Turbo S "Playboy Edition"

 

road.cc editor, Tony Farrelly, was at the show on Friday and most of Saturday, when the bike was unveiled. He said: “None of the Germans seemed to care; they loved it. You could have your photo taken with the bike and the bunny girls (and they were posting some of them on the wall) - the times I passed it it seemed mainly to be middle aged, middle class professional couples with the wife getting her husband to go and have his picture taken.”

“I do have a problem with us foisting...UK twitter morality on another nation which clearly doesn't seem to share that outlook. I’ve got to say I was surprised at how uncontroversial it was given the diverse nature of the obviously sophisticated urban crowd - imagine Spin London 10 times bigger and if urban cycling was really mainstream, but still also really trendy.”

“I was surprised to see it, but then we often forget that European countries have differently nuanced cultural points of view on lots of things. For instance sexism aside, lots of Brits would probably regard Playboy as a bit naff.”

Specialized's Dominik Geyer said in a press release: "When the opportunity to a product collaboration with Playboy showed we were immediately hooked! Two premium brands - a joint project. The Turbo S Edition combines Playboy lifestyle, innovative technology and pure joy of cycling. We are proud of the 40 unique bikes." 

What do you think? Is the Playboy bike sexist, or is it a case of lost in translation?

Specialized were contacted for comment.

56 comments

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Rapha Nadal [661 posts] 1 year ago
13 likes

"just because you're offended doesn't mean it's offensive"

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skeuomorph [9 posts] 1 year ago
10 likes

It is sexist.

The question and arguments are around whether you care about that sexism or not. 

Some people do, some people don't. 

One camps is right. The other is holding women back.

(But then, by definition, they don't care.)

 

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Yogic Cyclist [33 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Grow up...ffs 

 

its got it some press though, nice one ladies....lmfao 

 

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Ush [1015 posts] 1 year ago
12 likes

Just because you're not offended doesn't mean it's inoffensive.

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cqexbesd [100 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes

Yes its sexist. The fact that Germany has quite high levels of certain sorts of sexism (e.g. larger gender pay gap than the UK, working mother still being an insult in places) isn't an excuse to perpetuate it.

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The Hoggs [3496 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

lol.

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zanf [966 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes
Yogic Cyclist wrote:

its got it some press though, nice one ladies....lmfao

Yes, again Specialized have made themselves look like idiots. And just when all the dust had settled about them sending cease and desist letters for companies using the name 'Roubaix'.

Im sure thats exactly the kind of press they wanted.

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Tony Farrelly [2911 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

zanf wrote:

Yogic Cyclist wrote:

its got it some press though, nice one ladies....lmfao

Yes, again Specialized have made themselves look like idiots. And just when all the dust had settled about them sending cease and desist letters for companies using the name 'Roubaix'.

Im sure thats exactly the kind of press they wanted.

So some people are not going to buy an e-bike they couldn't buy anyway even if they'd been in the market for an e-bike – which I'd go out on a limb and say that most of them are not.

Meanwhile in Germany Specialized will no doubt shfit a their e-bikes - unless that is they've offended the people they are trying to sell them too. I didn't see much evidence of that on the ground - and I spent Friday and Saturday at the show. Of course the people attending weren't a representative sample of the whole of Germany either so it could be that Specialized Germany (very much not the same as Specialized UK) have dropped a mighty ricket. They didn't seem to think they had from what I could see though.
 

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hampstead_bandit [614 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

my grandmother, long passed on rest her soul, was a very close friend of Victor Lownes who ran Playboy in the UK for Hugh Heffner.  

my grandmother's property backed on "Stocks", the Playboy country retreat in Aldbury, near Tring in Herts. 

As a child I visited Stocks on many occasions, and vividly remember the playboy bunnies, the heated open air swimming pool, the free arcade video games rooms, and trying all manner of strange buffet food. I was excited to see a Mr. Roger Moore filming in the jacuzzi for a James Bond film, and years later seeing the film with the painting of a horse and hounds chase on the back wall of that jacuzzi

 

Bear in mind that was 30 years ago...you'd think things would have moved on? 

Shame on Specialized...

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Judge dreadful [273 posts] 1 year ago
12 likes

What's next, the Black and White minstrel edition? The love thy neighbour edition? Massive lols from me.

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cqexbesd [100 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes
Tony Farrelly wrote:

Meanwhile in Germany Specialized will no doubt shfit a their e-bikes - unless that is they've offended the people they are trying to sell them too.

Just because they manage to sell the bikes doesn't stop them looking like idiots to everyone else as zanf suggested. There are all sort of things you can do to lower your reputation (be that homophobia, xenophobia, sexism and so on) and mostly it won't be big enough to eliminate your entire customer base - indeed somethings might even encourage subsets of the public to support you - but it doesn't stop the (hopefully) larger damage to the brand. 

I think you are right that Specialized Germany can probably get away with this - Germany is hardly the most progressive society for gender equality (though it is very uneven and seems quite different to the UK) - but Specialized Germany aren't independent of the Specialized group as a whole. Specialized probably have subsiduaries in all sorts of countries where society dictates less attention is needed to human rights but, as a customer, I still expect them to try and improve the situation and not, through their actions, make it worse.

 

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NoOneSpecial [14 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Would it have made more of a scandal if they just had a big Merida banner in the background?

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Tony Farrelly [2911 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

cqexbesd wrote:

Tony Farrelly wrote:

Meanwhile in Germany Specialized will no doubt shfit a their e-bikes - unless that is they've offended the people they are trying to sell them too.

Just because they manage to sell the bikes doesn't stop them looking like idiots to everyone else as zanf suggested. There are all sort of things you can do to lower your reputation (be that homophobia, xenophobia, sexism and so on) and mostly it won't be big enough to eliminate your entire customer base - indeed somethings might even encourage subsets of the public to support you - but it doesn't stop the (hopefully) larger damage to the brand. 

I think you are right that Specialized Germany can probably get away with this - Germany is hardly the most progressive society for gender equality (though it is very uneven and seems quite different to the UK) - but Specialized Germany aren't independent of the Specialized group as a whole. Specialized probably have subsiduaries in all sorts of countries where society dictates less attention is needed to human rights but, as a customer, I still expect them to try and improve the situation and not, through their actions, make it worse.

 

The logical conclusion of what you seem to be saying is that the Germans aren't as morally evolved as us… well you? I'm sure that's not your intention because that would be both massively culturally and morally condescending. 

If the Germans, and German women in particular are offended then Specialized will pay a price and will deserve to. But if it turns out German women are not offended then it's really none of our business to tell them they should be.

I think we'd be better off spending our time looking to do something about inequality over here, before we start  lecturing anybody else about it - particularly a nation that is putting the rest of us to shame when it comes to opening its borders to the victims of societies that really do have a low regard for human rights. 

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StraelGuy [1095 posts] 1 year ago
9 likes

The word 'crass' springs to mind.

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vbvb [621 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes
Tony Farrelly wrote:

I do have a problem with us foisting...UK twitter morality

Oh dear, that's ill-advised. You really feel that dislike of Playboy sexism is just "uk twitter morality"? That's the morality under discussion.

Tony Farrelly wrote:

Specialized Germany (very much not the same as Specialized UK)

The Specialized brand is very much international and brand damage obviously crosses borders as many would attest (Gary Glitter springs to mind).

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Dr. Ko [206 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Finally I do realise why Specis are so expensivekiss

Are You aware how much it does cost to have a model posing with bikes?

Multiply this by two....( At ICM we can only afford one model per shot)

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Tony Farrelly [2911 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

vbvb wrote:

Tony Farrelly wrote:

I do have a problem with us foisting...UK twitter morality

Oh dear, that's ill-advised. You really feel that dislike of Playboy sexism is just "uk twitter morality"? That's the morality under discussion.

Tony Farrelly wrote:

Specialized Germany (very much not the same as Specialized UK)

The Specialized brand is very much international and brand damage obviously crosses borders as many would attest (Gary Glitter springs to mind).

You're equating Specialized Germany launching a Playboy bike in Germany - where it doesn't seem to be particularly controversial with child sex abuse? Oh dear that's ill advised and lacking in a sense of proportion.

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tomturcan [66 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Certainly sexist.  Does it matter?  On a moral level, yes, for many, on a commercial level, yes for the company if audiences outside Germany are turned off.  It's a global brand rather than a German one, so perhaps they should have seen that coming.  

Good luck next time Specialised  - and please note the correct spelling  1

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vbvb [621 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes
Tony Farrelly wrote:

if it turns out German women are not offended then it's really none of our business to tell them they should be.

I think we'd be better off spending our time looking to do something about inequality over here, before we start  lecturing anybody else about it

I am offended by a picture of Specialized, the brand on my bike, teaming up with Playboy. Nothing to do with German women. It became bigger than that for me, when you had the images posted to your UK website, Tony. I can do things about inequality in the UK too. It's not either / or.

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vbvb [621 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Tony Farrelly wrote:

Oh dear that's ill advised

That's a bit catty, Tony.

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Grizzerly [369 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

Really? Haven't you people got anything better to worry about?

 

 

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Grizzerly [369 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

Really? Haven't you people got anything better to worry about?

 

 

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Veloism [75 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

It's Playboy, the whole brand is based on sexy ladies dressed up as bunies.

Crass, maybe. Sexist? No. 

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Awavey [356 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes

I cant really be bothered to play the "im spartacus, no Im spartacus, no Im spartacus" offended game for stuff like this anymore, just get on your bikes and ride

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Beefy [381 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Really offensive so as a mark of solidarity if everyone who owns a specialised bike should give them to charity as riding them would be wrong and i am sure no one would sell this brand new or used! So why not give ur spec to charity maybe remove decals first. Anyone got the conviction to match their level of offence?

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Tony Farrelly [2911 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

vbvb wrote:

Tony Farrelly wrote:

if it turns out German women are not offended then it's really none of our business to tell them they should be.

I think we'd be better off spending our time looking to do something about inequality over here, before we start  lecturing anybody else about it

I am offended by a picture of Specialized, the brand on my bike, teaming up with Playboy. Nothing to do with German women. It became bigger than that for me, when you had the images posted to your UK website, Tony. I can do things about inequality in the UK too. It's not either / or.

It's bigger than German women being offended, it's about you being offended?

If you are offended then it seems to me the only thing you can do is to take a sledgehammer to your Specialized. Film it, and post the footage on social media. 

 

Avatar
cqexbesd [100 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
Tony Farrelly wrote:

The logical conclusion of what you seem to be saying is that the Germans aren't as morally evolved as us… well you? I'm sure that's not your intention because that would be both massively culturally and morally condescending. 

That was not what I was saying. Its quite possible to suggest that there are flaws in societies without in some way writing off an entire culture. I even mentioned in my original comment that the landscape of gender equality was very uneven in Germany suggesting, just maybe, that there some bits where things are looking a bit better.

If I criticise sexism in the UK as well then I guess we really are in a bind about who is more evolved.

I will also add, for the avoidence of doubt, that I don't consider Specialized Germany's marketing techniques in anyway represent every German any more than I expect your comments to represent every British person.

Tony Farrelly wrote:

If the Germans, and German women in particular are offended then Specialized will pay a price and will deserve to. But if it turns out German women are not offended then it's really none of our business to tell them they should be.

I'm not telling German women that they should be offended. Sexism demeans us all. Even men. And it is all our repsonsibility to call out discrimination when we see it - not just the victims of it. In fact those of us who are in effect more priveleged in society probably have a greater duty to do something about it.

Tony Farrelly wrote:

I think we'd be better off spending our time looking to do something about inequality over here, before we start  lecturing anybody else about it - particularly a nation that is putting the rest of us to shame when it comes to opening its borders to the victims of societies that really do have a low regard for human rights. 

Well I live in Germany so I am talking about inequality over here. Its great that Germany has taken so many refugees - its terrible that may are forced to queue outside for days in sub-zero temperatures to register so they become eligible for government assistance. See what I did there? I criticised something that happened here that I thought was bad whilst not writing off everything associated with the country. This nuance is wonderful stuff.

Just to be clear though - you aren't suggesting that people from countries where some people have a lower access to human rights are less morally evolved just because some sections of the societies have problems?

 

Avatar
The Hoggs [3496 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Just had a quick scoot through the internet and so far i've found BMW, Honda, Fit Bike Co, Stradalli bikes, Hauck Bikes, Harley Davidson all using the playboy brand in their advertising and even the beloved Danny MacAskill at the playboy mansion on youtube.

Specialised aren't the first and certainly wont be the last company to use Playboy.

Were the girls coerced into doing it - probably not

Were the girls paid to do it - probably yes.

Have Specialised gained massive publicity through it - yes

Therefore the advertising company have served their purpose.

I've shown my daughter and wife this article and neither are the slightest bit bothered by it stating its good publicity for Specialised. It doesn't mean they are right or wrong just that everyone both male and female have a different view on things.

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vbvb [621 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Tony Farrelly wrote:

It's bigger than German women being offended, it's about you being offended?

Again, Tony, you're just being catty. I'm off to read about the Blackburn Wayside.

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Tony Farrelly [2911 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

cqexbesd wrote:

Tony Farrelly wrote:

If the Germans, and German women in particular are offended then Specialized will pay a price and will deserve to. But if it turns out German women are not offended then it's really none of our business to tell them they should be.

I'm not telling German women that they should be offended. Sexism demeans us all. Even men. And it is all our repsonsibility to call out discrimination when we see it - not just the victims of it. In fact those of us who are in effect more priveleged in society probably have a greater duty to do something about it.

I agree we should call out real oppression and discrimination where we see it. The problem I have is that I don't feel priviliged enough to tell anyone who doesn't themselves feel oppressed or discriminated against how to live their lives just because what they do doesn't fit in with my priviliged notion of what gender equality looks like. And that includes restricting the economic choices of young women who choose to make their living by dressing up in bunny outfits.

 

Tony Farrelly wrote:

I think we'd be better off spending our time looking to do something about inequality over here, before we start  lecturing anybody else about it - particularly a nation that is putting the rest of us to shame when it comes to opening its borders to the victims of societies that really do have a low regard for human rights. 

Well I live in Germany so I am talking about inequality over here. Its great that Germany has taken so many refugees - its terrible that may are forced to queue outside for days in sub-zero temperatures to register so they become eligible for government assistance. See what I did there? I criticised something that happened here that I thought was bad whilst not writing off everything associated with the country. This nuance is wonderful stuff.

Just to be clear though - you aren't suggesting that people from countries where some people have a lower access to human rights are less morally evolved just because some sections of the societies have problems?

[/quote]

You'd have to be a master of nuance to get to there from my comments.

It's terrible that refugees in Germany are being forced to queue in the cold - you can be sure no-one is doing that here.

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