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Bass -

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The CASE Journal





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Theoretical basis

The theoretical basis for this case is a focus on vertical integration, first-mover advantage and competitive dynamics. Vertical integration is based on Williamson’s (1979) theory of transaction-cost economics as it relates to vertical integration; the discussion on first-mover advantage is built off of Suarez and Lanzolla’s (2005) dynamics of first-mover advantage; and the analyzes on competitive dynamics derives from the MacMillan et al. (1985) early empirical tests of interfirm rivalry dynamics.

Research methodology

The authors conducted extensive research using the following sources: IBISWorld, MergentOnline and academic journals, trade magazines and websites. Additionally, the authors successfully piloted the case on more than 350 undergraduate students enrolled in a business and corporate strategy course.

Case overview/synopsis

Peloton used vertical integration to control the creation of its own software, bikes, exercise classes and retail outlets. In doing so, Peloton was one of the first companies in the industry to have near full control of the production process (Gross and Caisman, 2019). Due to this integration, Peloton was one of the fitness equipment industry leaders. However, Peloton’s high level of vertical integration coupled with rapid growth led to lackluster profitability. Given the rise in popularity of in-home exercise equipment, Peloton had room to continue its growth, but the question remained whether it was strategically positioned to do so.

Complexity academic level

This case is best taught in undergraduate and graduate strategy courses. For undergraduate courses, it could be incorporated into lessons on competitive dynamics, internal analysis and first-mover advantage and strategic positioning. For graduate courses, it could be incorporated into lessons on vertical integration and delving more in-depth into the long-term sustainability of having a first-mover advantage.


This is the accepted manuscript of an article accepted for publication in Emerald's CASE Journal, published on August 21, 2021, and accessible at

Publisher: Emerald Publishing Limited

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License