How Peloton turned a crisis into gains in two days

December 15, 2021

Written by Haley Corzo

Editor’s note: The Peloton ad mentioned has since been removed following the allegations of sexual assault against the actor Chris Noth. The original blog remains below.

Spoiler warning: This blog contains details from the HBO series “And Just Like That.”

After a collective gasp was heard across the US from fans watching the “Sex and The City” reboot last Thursday, Peloton found itself in the news when the first episode revealed that Mr. Big suffers a fatal heart attack after a ride on his prominently branded stationary bike. Not to worry – two days later and Peloton is delivering a masterclass in crisis management, as its response ad is now bigger than the initial incident.  

The new series, “…And Just Like That”, shocked audiences everywhere by killing off a major character so soon into the spin-off, and while not necessarily intentional, the fact that it happened after a Peloton ride meant all eyes were on the brand, and the next day the stock price had dropped significantly. 

Of course, there’s no way to prove correlation, but that didn’t stop speculation as media coverage and social media channels went wild. Peloton wasted no time getting sucked into responding to the chatter, and instead seized an opportunity to turn a crisis into something valuable.

But before we dive deeper into the brand’s response, let’s first look at the crisis itself.

Media and public interest to the “And Just Like That” Peloton incident

Graph showing media and public interest to Peloton crisis

On Dec 9th, when HBO released the long-awaited sequel on its streaming platform HBO Max, all was seemingly quiet until later in the evening, when articles surrounding Mr. Big’s death began to draw some light attention.

By the next morning the story was officially viral — Peloton was pulled into the conversation and had already made a statement saying it was aware the bike would be featured in the show, but had not received details of the specific plot line.

The issue deepened when TMZ reported that Peloton’s stock price had dropped 11% since the show’s debut. The article gained traction throughout the morning and caused the biggest spike in engagements, earning 4k in a single hour between 1pm and 2pm. Other publishers jumped on the bandwagon and wrote articles about the decreased stock price such as the New York Times and Rolling Stone, who stated Peloton was now in ‘damage control.’ 

TMZ had the most engaged article overall during the time period before Peloton’s rebuttal ad, totaling 32.9k engagements. 

The Ad is released on social media 

While the news continued circulating online, Peloton was behind the scenes working to conjure up what we now know to be a very cheeky, well-executed and well-timed response. 

This made its debut on Sunday afternoon when Ryan Reynolds tweeted an ad from his account featuring Mr. Big himself (Chris Noth) and the Peloton instructor seen in the first episode (Jess King) as they contemplate another Peloton ride.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Peloton (@onepeloton)

The voiceover from Reynolds, accompanied by his push on social media where he boasts millions of followers, was a quick-witted idea from Peloton in terms of promoting the ad as soon as possible. This also wasn’t the first time the actor had capitalized on a Peloton crisis, and therefore the brand teamed up with his agency Maximum Effort to execute the ad. 

Reynolds took to his other social media channels to promote it as well. His Instagram post saw over three million views, and he even shared it on LinkedIn where he bantered that he was using time from his sabbatical to help make the ad. Peloton’s Chief Marketing Officer Dana Treseder even left a comment calling Reynold’s a ‘genius’ and thanked him for all his effort.

Naturally, Peloton also shared the ad on its own Instagram account and included a clever caption that read: “And just like that…He’s alive.” The brand’s post also saw millions of views. 

Top articles about Peloton ad saw more engagement than the crisis

Chart showing the top articles to Peloton ad

 We looked at the top stories about the Peloton ad once it was released on Sunday and watched as media coverage continued to increase well into Monday afternoon. The ad immediately captured the public’s attention with its humor and boldness, and between those two days alone it had generated over 185k engagements. The crisis itself received 109.9k engagements to articles written from Dec 9th to Dec 11th, making Peloton’s ad in response a much bigger story than the original crisis itself. 

Numerous publishers have written articles about the parody ad, but Rolling Stone had the most engaged piece, with 25.8k engagements. There were a few articles in the top 10 with headlines that mentioned Peloton resurrecting or reviving Mr. Big, which demonstrated the brand’s ability to take control of the situation and spin it to something that benefitted them. These articles came from the likes of Variety, The Daily Beast, and The Wrap.

It’s not every day that we see a brand with the ability to form what seems like an almost effortless response. However, Peloton is setting the example for how brands can react smoothly, swiftly, and creatively when a potential crisis shows itself, and how to do it with a sense of humor and authenticity.

To read more about a brand that didn’t handle crisis situations so well, read our blog about Better.com here.

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