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US brand says German marketing initiative was undertaken locally without global team's input...

US bike manufacturer Specialized has apologised after women dressed in Playboy Bunny costumes appeared next to a limited edition Playboy electric bike launched on the German market that was unveiled last week at a bike show in Berlin.

The California-based company insists that it does not endorse women being objectified, and says that the marketing initiative had been taken locally, without the knowledge of its global marketing staff.

Slate Olson, Specialized’s chief marketing officer, who joined the company 12 months ago after seven years with Rapha, said: “We apologise for a recent marketing activation which we participated in at the Berlin Bike Show with the Limited Edition Turbo.

“Specialized stands strong with female riders and we do not support the objectification of women in any way, in any region.

“In the future we will continue only to build on the great work we have done to promote women and men in cycling,” added Olson.  

As we reported on Sunday, some British visitors to the show expressed disappointment at the presence of the models next to the Playboy-branded bike, saying that it undermined Specialized’s efforts to position itself as an aspirational brand for female cyclists.

> Specialized's "Playboy" e-bike sparks social media sexism row

Many locals attending the show, however, did pose for photographs with the women, with road.cc editor Tony Farrelly noting: “None of the Germans seemed to care; they loved it ... 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.”

Monika Zamojska, co-founder of UK-based cycle clothing brand House of Astbury, who was also at the show, told road.cc  at the weekend: “The reaction was mixed.”

But she added: "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.”

In a press release accompanying the launch of the bike, Dominik Geyer of Specialized said: "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."

Specialized has since made it clear, however, that the marketing initiative was executed at a local level with no consultation taking place with its global headquarters in Morgan Hill, California.

Emphasising that “this is by no means an excuse as we have to stand up to any decision made in any market,” the company said that “this market activation was carried out locally by the regional marketing manager, and was not discussed with or approved by our global marketing team.”

However, as Zamojska pointed when we spoke to her on Sunday, the rise of social media in recent years means that local initiatives by global brands can – and do – reach a global 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," she said.

Specialized's statement doesn't say whether or not the bike remains on sale in Germany with the Playboy branding, and we have asked the company for clarification.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

18 comments

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danthomascyclist [339 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

"marketing activation"

"...combines Playboy lifestyle, innovative cycling"

"Two premium brands"

 

I found the marketing drone.

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Duncann [1081 posts] 1 year ago
8 likes

Storm in a C-cup, I'd say.

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festina [58 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes

So they don't support the objectification of women but they do make a limited edition bike of a brand funded by the objectification of women. Is that not the definition of hypocrisy.

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burtthebike [1046 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

So they get two bunny girls to pose in front of a bike, and then get lots of free advertising from outraged media types.  Result!

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Mikey-simmo [5 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes

That brand is toxic in relation to anything positive involving women.  Can't quite see how this was going to end any other way?  Whoever took the Bunny's money was in for a rough time over this.  Best avoided me thinks.  Still don't understand the need for girls on the podium, even in womens races FFS.

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Fish_n_Chips [513 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

Did someone complain?

I like playboy bunnys and bikes.

Marketing worked on me! angel

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jazzdude [77 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

So Monika Zamojska doesn't want women to look pretty. I wonder if she sought their (all other women) opinions before making that statement. Obviously those two girls didn't want to pose with the bike, they were forced to do it.

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jasecd [471 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes
Fish_n_Chips wrote:

Did someone complain?

I like playboy bunnys and bikes.

Marketing worked on me! angel

 

I thought it was cheap retrograde nonsense. I'd rather see Lizzie Armitstead or Anna Van Der Breggen riding bikes than these two "bunnies" standing around next to them.

Cycling has mostly moved on and it's crap like this that may well turn off future women champions. A weak excuse from Specialized blaming a local marketing department - yet another reason to avoid their brand. 

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Stumps [3496 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes
jasecd wrote:
Fish_n_Chips wrote:

Did someone complain?

I like playboy bunnys and bikes.

Marketing worked on me! angel

 

I thought it was cheap retrograde nonsense. I'd rather see Lizzie Armitstead or Anna Van Der Breggen riding bikes than these two "bunnies" standing around next to them.

Cycling has mostly moved on and it's crap like this that may well turn off future women champions. A weak excuse from Specialized blaming a local marketing department - yet another reason to avoid their brand.

Even when a womens champion is used blowing a kiss the proverbial hits the fan.  The world has gone completely bonkers.

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Albec1 [17 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes

Tacky, outdated and unnecessary

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QDubs [17 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes

A lot of over reaction.  Not unlike Americans having strokes over wardrobe malfunctions. Anyone, women included, making anything over this makes them look small and petty. It sends a message that we can't compete with intellect or athletic prowess so we have to belittle petty things like this.

This is simply not a big deal. Get over it and focus on succeeding in bigger and more important things.

 

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M3NDEREZ [6 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

What utter nonesense. It's brand association for pitys sake! The bike is branded as a Playboy Edition, what exactly did we think Playboy does? 

 

What irritates me about all of this fake outrage is that had this been a WWE Wrestling Edition bike, and some 6'6" steroid abusing, jacked-up wrestler had been present to promote the collaboration, no one would have given it a second thought. 

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Gossa [88 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

"Hi, yes I need a professional CV writing pronto please. My name is Dirk and my previous experience includes making awesome creative decisions as Marketing manager of Specialized Germany".

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bikeylikey [227 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

This moral outrage denies women their right of choice. What if a particular person actually wants to dress up in a daft costume and be drooled over from a distance? Enjoys it, doesn't believe it makes all women 'objects', just her? She's not to be allowed then, because someone else thinks they shouldn't, and this someone else thinks they're more intelligent or morally superior?

In any case, how does it degrade all women that a tiny minority want to do this for a few quid? Or even that this particular woman is an 'object' - she's only posing like this today, for a while, playing a role. She's not like this as a person, all the time for the rest of her life.

Are all men 'objectified' by Arnold Schwarzenegger and his ilk  pumping up into stereotypes of men? Or by David Beckham appearing in ads as a stereotypical fashion object/clone? If they are, no one seems to bother much about it.

Not that I'd be seen dead on anything with a Playboy icon or name anywhere near it myself, of course. Embarrassing or what.

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Gossa [88 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
bikeylikey wrote:

This moral outrage denies women their right of choice. What if a particular person actually wants to dress up in a daft costume and be drooled over from a distance? Enjoys it, doesn't believe it makes all women 'objects', just her? She's not to be allowed then, because someone else thinks they shouldn't, and this someone else thinks they're more intelligent or morally superior?

In any case, how does it degrade all women that a tiny minority want to do this for a few quid? Or even that this particular woman is an 'object' - she's only posing like this today, for a while, playing a role. She's not like this as a person, all the time for the rest of her life.

Are all men 'objectified' by Arnold Schwarzenegger and his ilk  pumping up into stereotypes of men? Or by David Beckham appearing in ads as a stereotypical fashion object/clone? If they are, no one seems to bother much about it.

Not that I'd be seen dead on anything with a Playboy icon or name anywhere near it myself, of course. Embarrassing or what.

 

What about all the people (male and female) that make promotions and modelling thier career choices?

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zanf [950 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes
jazzdude wrote:

So Monika Zamojska doesn't want women to look pretty. I wonder if she sought their (all other women) opinions before making that statement. Obviously those two girls didn't want to pose with the bike, they were forced to do it.

Theres so much stupid in your comment that its astounding.

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Windydog [67 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
zanf wrote:
jazzdude wrote:

So Monika Zamojska doesn't want women to look pretty. I wonder if she sought their (all other women) opinions before making that statement. Obviously those two girls didn't want to pose with the bike, they were forced to do it.

Theres so much stupid in your comment that its astounding.

 

No need surely, this reads as passive aggressive nonsence without any justification apart from namecalling and bullying. 

As for the original comment,  it's an opinion.  Get over it.

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Pitbull [15 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Well it is The Easter Bunnies.....