Peloton shows how to swiftly navigate a PR crisis—just like that

by | Dec 17, 2021 | Public Relations

**Update – Since publishing this piece, it seems that Mr. Big now has bigger problems than his Peloton-induced heart attack. On Thursday, December 16, actor Chris Noth was accused of sexual assault by two different women. In light of these accusations, Peloton has pulled the ad (described in the piece below). “Every single sexual assault accusation must be taken seriously,” a spokesperson for Peloton said in an official statement. “We were unaware of these allegations when we featured Chris Noth in our response to HBO’s reboot. As we seek to learn more, we have stopped promoting this video and archived related social media posts.” Peloton once again has responded to a crisis with swift action and communication.**

In the season premiere of the highly anticipated Sex and The City reboot, And Just Like That, Carrie Bradshaw’s beau, Mr. Big, hops on his Peloton for the 1,000th time. The branding was clear, this was definitely a Peloton stationary bike, with familiar instructor Jess King (AKA “Allegra” on the show) cheerleading Mr. Big on from the bike’s TV monitor. After he achieved his milestone, spoiler alert! Mr. Big dies of a heart attack. Just. Like. That.

Now when I first watched this, I could not believe it

Why would any brand endorse product placement in which a main character is killed off using their product!? It didn’t make sense. Stock prices for Peloton had already been steadily going down, and let’s just say this TV moment did not help them in the market. The company’s shares dropped more than 16 percent since the show aired on December 9th. Oof!

Peloton spokesperson Denise Kelly told Buzzfeed News that the company approved King’s appearance but indicated that it didn’t know the plotline (and that HBO procured the bike on their own). And after the episode, Peloton’s in-house cardiologist noted Mr. Big’s unhealthy lifestyle of big steaks, cigars and alcohol—coupled with his family history—were likely the true cause of his death (and that his bike rides may have even delayed it!). Ok folks, Lesson 1—make sure no one dies using your product in the script before you agree to let them use it on TV!

Three days later, Peloton pulled off an incredible response that can teach us all a thing or two about crisis communications and thought leadership

An ad, narrated by Ryan Reynolds, in which Mr. Big and Allegra (Chris Noth and Jess King) cheer to new beginnings before deciding to take another ride…as the camera cuts to two Peloton bikes. Reynolds’ voiceover concludes, “And just like that, the world was reminded that regular cycling stimulates and improves your heart, lungs and circulation, reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Cycling strengthens your heart muscles, lowers resting pulse and reduces blood fat levels. He’s alive.”

Pure genius.

Peloton made this happen at warp speed, and the ad has already received over a million views

They didn’t just put out a statement; they created something, and they did it with a wink and a nod. It was clever, fun, and didn’t disparage anyone. It said, we’re in on the joke. So let’s have some fun.

When things go wrong, time is of the essence

Would this ad have gone viral if it came out 15 days after the episode, instead of just 3 days after it? Perhaps we would have moved on to the next thing…after we packed up our Pelotons, of course. And when you’re put on the defense with no warning, remember to take a breath, and to try to find an opportunity to create something.

We shall see if Peloton’s stock price will recover. But in the meantime, I’m definitely not ditching my bike.

Image source: The Times

Julie Talenfeld
Julie Talenfeld is the president of BoardroomPR, , a full service PR and marketing firm based in Fort Lauderdale, FL.