National Advertising Division Recommends Trek Narrowly Tailor Helmet Performance Claims to Underlying Study; Modify Claim that Bontrager WaveCel Helmets are “up to 48x More Effective Than Traditional Foam Helmets”

For Immediate Release

Contact: Laura Brett, Director, NAD, 212.705.0109 / lbrett@bbbnp.org

 

New York, NY – March 11, 2020 – The National Advertising Division (“NAD”) determined that Trek Bicycle Corporation had submitted evidence sufficient to demonstrate that its study of head injury protection comparative performance testing between its Bontrager WaveCel helmets (“WaveCel helmets”) and competitive products was reliably conducted. However, due to concerns about the fit between this study and the advertiser’s quantified comparative safety claim, NAD recommended that Trek discontinue the claim that its WaveCel helmet is “up to 48x more effective than traditional foam helmets in protecting your head from injuries caused by certain cycling accidents.”

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB National Programs’ self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.

As part of its routine monitoring program, NAD requested substantiation for the claim that “WaveCel is a revolutionary, Bontrager-exclusive helmet technology that has been shown in a recent study to be up to 48x more effective than traditional foam helmets in protecting your head from injuries caused by certain cycling accidents” accompanied by a disclosure stating “See Evaluation of a Novel Bicycle Helmet Concept in Oblique Impact Testing, Accident Analysis and Prevention 123 (2019) 58-65. www.trekbikes.com/what-is-wavecel. Based on reduction in rotational acceleration at impact (6.2 m/s at 45°) of head + neck model wearing traditional EPS foam helmet vs. helmet modified with WaveCel insert. Probability of injury in an actual accident depends on numerous factors, including nature of impact and individual health.”  The “up to 48x more effective” claim appeared on the Trekbikes.com website, product packaging, banner advertising, and in social media for the Bontrager WaveCel helmets.

In support of its “up to 48x more effective” claim, the advertiser relied on a study of head injury protection comparative performance testing between its Bontrager WaveCel helmets and competitive products (the “Bliven Study”). The advertiser touted its best result from a single impact scenario – among four impact scenarios tested – to support its “up to 48x” claim. That impact scenario represented the highest velocity impact scenario tested. NAD noted that the Bliven Study results demonstrated that the WaveCel helmet’s head injury protection performance exceeded that of the traditional foam helmet in all of the impact scenarios, but varied depending on the speed and angle of the impact. Indeed, the WaveCel results were widely distributed between 5x-48x improved head injury protection as compared to traditional foam helmets. NAD determined that the advertiser provided evidence sufficient to demonstrate that the Bliven Study was reliably conducted. 

NAD was concerned about whether the Bliven Study was a good fit for the advertiser’s claim.  NAD noted that the record did not demonstrate that an appreciable number of consumers will experience a cycling impact at the precise speed and head angle that yielded the “up to 48x more effective than traditional foam helmets” result – the highest result obtained in the Bliven Study. Further, the Bliven Study, by its own terms, only accounts for a few of the many real-life speeds and angles in which an unfortunate cyclist’s head may experience an oblique impact, and those speeds and angles affect WaveCel helmet performance relative to traditional foam helmets. It was also NAD’s understanding from the record, that the testing of the impact of rotational forces on helmets (and heads) is an area of research that will continue to evolve.

NAD noted that the increased protection provided by the WaveCel helmet is impressive and represents a meaningful innovation that benefits consumer safety. The claim, however, should more closely reflect the increased protection that consumers can expect to achieve with the helmet.  For the reasons discussed, NAD recommended that Trek discontinue its “up to 48x more effective than traditional foam helmets in protecting your head from injuries caused by certain cycling accidents” claim or modify it to ensure the claim is narrowly tailored to the underlying Bliven Study, for example, by disclosing the variability of the results in the main claim.

In its advertiser’s statement, Trek stated that it “will comply with the decision” and noted that “the data used in the advertising represented the highest velocity impact scenario in the study.”

 

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About the National Advertising Division: National Advertising Division (NAD), a division of BBB National Programs, provides independent self-regulation overseeing the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for truth and accuracy.

 

About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs fosters trust, innovation, and competition in the marketplace through the development and delivery of cost-effective, third-party self-regulation, dispute resolution and other programs. BBB National Programs is the home of industry self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs that include the National Advertising Division (NAD), National Advertising Review Board (NARB), BBB EU Privacy Shield, BBB AUTO LINE, Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), Children’s Confection Advertising Initiative (CCAI), Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC), Digital Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program), and the Coalition for Better Advertising Dispute Resolution Program (CBA DRM). The programs are designed to resolve business issues and advance shared objectives by responding to marketplace concerns to create a better customer experience. To learn more about industry self-regulation, please visit: BBBNP.org.

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