Mentality Matters: Peloton Takes Back the Narrative with its Chris Noth Ad…
Then Loses it Again
December 17, 2021
On December 9, HBO Max aired the first episode of the highly anticipated ‘Sex and the City’ reboot. While the conversation leading up to the show’s release had centered around the absence of one leading actress, Kim Cattral, the focus quickly shifted once the episode aired and Chris Noth’s character, known to fans as “Mr. Big,” died from a heart attack after completing his one thousandth Peloton ride.
This unfortunate positioning for Peloton within the highly anticipated series left the brand scrambling amongst public discussions about the character’s death being linked to his Peloton use and the subsequent drop in the brand’s stock price.
Peloton moved quickly with Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventative cardiologist and member of Peloton’s health and wellness advisory council, releasing a statement to The Times citing Mr. Big’s extravagant lifestyle as the cause of his fatal heart attack, adding that “riding his Peloton Bike may have even helped delay his cardiac event.”
But Peloton’s response did not end there.
Incredibly, the brand created an ad in less than 48 hours in partnership with Maximum Effort, a digital marketing agency co-founded by Ryan Reynolds and George Dewey.
The ad starred Chris Noth and provided a clever response to the unflattering product placement in the ‘Sex and the City’ reboot.
The ad was posted on Peloton’s social media accounts on December 12th; Peloton’s stock added $900 million in value on Monday following the ad’s debut and their social engagement skyrocketed.
What insights does this story and its multiple dimensions offer for brands?
To get some context on the layers of Peloton’s role in the popular ‘Sex and the City’ reboot and the brand’s speedy public response, review the chronology of major moments below, as told by a representative sample of online news articles throughout the story’s continuing timeline.
Keep in mind these articles and videos are just a handful of the thousands upon thousands of articles, opinions, social posts, videos, comments, etc. generated by this major viral moment.
Most actionable moments don’t reach this level of virality or last this long but these “big moments” are useful for gaining and sharing insights.
For example, the initial spotlight quickly shifted from buzz around the sequel of the popular ‘Sex and the City’ series, to shock at the death of a popular character, to spotlighting Peloton as the potential cause of death, to Peloton’s resulting stock drop, to Peloton’s quick responses on social media, to their creation of an ad starring Chris Noth that expertly addressed the negative product placement, all in a matters of days.
Peloton expertly navigated this situation and turned a potential branding nightmare into a win within an impossibly tight timeframe. But this story isn’t just a best-in-class example of Advertising and PR, it’s also a potential opportunity for other brands in the exercise & wellness space and beyond to enter the conversation and capitalize on the viral and evolving story.
And then just like that…the story turned again.
On December 16, The Hollywood Reporter broke a story that two women had stepped forward and accused Noth of sexual assault.
Within hours, Pelton removed the new ad featuring Noth and stated it had been unaware of the allegations when it created and launched the ad and that “every single sexual assault accusation must be taken seriously.”
How would your brand have approached this story?
1. Does your brand have a way of monitoring PR controversies and public sentiment that allows for quick decisioning (such as Peloton’s quick ad creation)?
2. If you were a competitor of Peloton, would you have targeted, blocked, or monitored this emerging story when the episode first aired?
3. If you were a competitor of Peloton, would your action have changed after the story evolved and Peloton released their creative addressing the episode?
4. What about when the narrative turned again and Pelton pulled the ad following public allegations of sexual assault against Chris Noth?
Peloton ‘And Just like That’ Story Chronology with representative content samples