Dec 14, 2021 - Economy

Peloton spins crisis into viral moment

Data: Newswhip; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios
Data: Newswhip; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Peloton's new parody ad is getting lots of attention, helping to offset a brief crisis tied to the debut of HBO's "Sex and the City" sequel Thursday.

Why it matters: The quick turnaround of its new ad helped give Peloton's stock a small boost Monday, following a weekend of bad headlines.

Details: Shares of Peloton fell last Thursday after HBO aired the first episode of its highly anticipated "Sex and the City" sequel.

  • In a widely shared moment from the show, actor Chris Noth's character — dubbed "Mr. Big" — dies suddenly from a heart attack shortly after completing his one thousandth Peloton ride.
  • Peloton told BuzzFeed News, "Due to confidentiality reasons, HBO did not disclose the larger context surrounding the scene to Peloton in advance," forcing Peloton to respond to the scene in real-time.
  • Peloton released a statement from a preventative cardiologist and advisor to the company saying the fictional character's lifestyle choices, like smoking cigars, would have put him at serious risk of a cardiac event. "Riding his Peloton Bike may have even helped delay his cardiac event," she noted.

Peloton then released its own ad on Sunday evening, depicting an alive Noth with Peloton instructor Jess King, who was the instructor featured in the Peloton ride "Mr. Big" was participating in on the HBO show.

  • “To new beginnings,” Noth tells King. “I feel great. Should we take another ride?" he said, gesturing to Peloton bikes in his living room. "Life’s too short not to.”
  • The ad featured a voice-over from actor Ryan Reynolds.

Behind the scenes: The ad was created in less than 48 hours by Maximum Effort, a digital marketing agency co-founded by Ryan Reynolds and George Dewey.

  • "We’ve done this a few times over the years and we’ve learned to move fast and not overthink," Dewey, the agency's president, told Axios when asked how they pulled it off.
  • Dewey said that there hasn't been any paid promotion of the ad, which first appeared on Peloton's social media accounts.
  • So far, the ad agency hasn't received any feedback from HBO, but notes it tries "to design these in a way where everyone wins."

By the numbers: Peloton's stock added $900 million in value Monday following the ad's debut.

  • Data from Newswhip provided to Axios shows how viral the ad quickly became, driving interactions with stories about Peloton to surge Monday following the ad's debut than Friday following the "Sex and the City" sequel's first episode.
  • Of the top 25 articles shared on social media about the incident, about half focused on the fallout from the HBO scene, and the other half were about the ad.

The big picture: Peloton's marketing prowess has helped it become the go-to at-home exercise company during the pandemic. But sales have tapered off in recent months as lockdowns have subsided.

  • "People tend to take things in the spirit in which they’re done," Dewey said. "So if it’s too calculated and too thoughtless, you can get in real trouble which is why so many marketers are so conservative when it comes to social media."

Editor's note: The name of the original HBO series has been corrected to "Sex and the City," not "Sex in the City."

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