Warning: This post contains spoilers for the series premiere of “And Just Like That …”
And just like that … Peloton has found a way to capitalize on a potential public-relations nightmare caused by HBO Max’s “Sex and the City” reboot.
In the series premiere of “And Just Like That …,” available on the streaming platform as of last week, a beloved character suddenly drops dead after completing an intense workout on a Peloton exercise bike. And the equipment brand’s instant response has gone viral on social media.
Soon after Mr. Big (Chris Noth), the enigmatic love interest of series lead Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), died of a seemingly Peloton-induced heart attack in the “Sex and the City” revival’s first episode, many wondered how Peloton would recover from such an unflattering, unforgettable TV cameo.
Within days, however, Peloton bounced back in a big way: It resurrected Mr. Big for a commercial featuring none other than Noth and Peloton instructor Jessica King. The dramatic advertisement, released Sunday and narrated by actor Ryan Reynolds, quickly blew up online, amassing more than 45,000 likes on Twitter and spurring a slew of headlines.
“Should we take another ride?” Noth’s Big asks King. “Life’s too short not to.”
“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,” Reynolds recites from a pointed script. “Cycling strengthens your heart muscles, lowers resting pulse and reduces blood-fat levels. He’s alive.”
The carefully orchestrated PR maneuver — a bunch of Peloton instructors individually shared the ad on social media separately from the company’s main accounts — was a hit with fans. So successful, in fact, that some began to speculate as to whether Big’s death was part of a larger Peloton marketing scheme all along.
Not so, according to Peloton, which says the promo was filmed in less than 48 hours, after HBO didn’t warn the company of its, uh, pivotal role in the show.
“We had no prior knowledge of the storyline involving Peloton and this was not a product placement but rather a casting opportunity for one of our instructors,” Peloton said Monday in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. (King also played Big’s Peloton-instructor crush, Allegra, in the reboot.)
That explanation tracks with Peloton’s reaction to the “And Just Like That … ” plot twist — apparently borne out of genuine shock at HBO’s brand-deal betrayal.
“I’m sure ‘SATC’ fans, like me, are saddened by the news that Mr. Big dies of a heart attack,” said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist and member of Peloton’s health and wellness advisory council, shortly after the pilot debuted.
“Mr. Big lived what many would call an extravagant lifestyle — including cocktails, cigars and big steaks — and was at serious risk as he had a previous cardiac event in Season 6. These lifestyle choices and perhaps even his family history, which often is a significant factor, were the likely cause of his death. Riding his Peloton Bike may have even helped delay his cardiac event.”
According to Kevin Mountford, co-founder of financial services firm Rasin U.K., Peloton stock prices took a 10% nosedive immediately after the episode premiered, while Google searches for “Peloton PR crisis” and “is Peloton in trouble” skyrocketed.
However, Mountford notes, “Peloton was already experiencing a 73% fall in the past year, with most investors resigning to the idea that Peloton’s peak remained a pandemic trend, populated by lockdowns and isolations.”
“Although the death of Mr. Big certainly contributed to a negative perception of the company, it is practical to assume that despite the increased consumer confidence in the product itself, investors are still pessimistic about the outlook for the company as a whole,” the financial expert added.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Peloton has weathered an unexpected media storm. Who could forget the notorious Peloton holiday commercial of 2019, which sparked a body-positive backlash from those who disapproved of the so-called Peloton Husband gifting his wife an exercise bike for Christmas?
Coincidentally (or probably not), Reynolds also waded into that controversy by casting the Peloton Wife (Monica Ruiz) in a followup spot for his liquor brand, Aviation Gin.
Meanwhile, on the internet, “Sex and the City” fans have continued to fantasize about how the latest Peloton stunt came together so swiftly.
“tell me what yall [Peloton] paid this man [Noth] to rush order him on a weekend to film this!!!” tweeted actor Dani Fernandez.
“I need to know everything about how this came about,” tweeted TikTok star Nick Cho.
Times staff writer Meredith Blake contributed to this report.