Memo: Peloton’s Beating Heart


Peloton has mastered the playbook for responding in moments of brand crisis. That playbook’s name is Ryan Reynolds.

The fitness company finds new ways to capture news cycles. The company may have been the first to ever experience a massive sell off after a fictional portrayal involving its product’s placement. In the first week of December, CNBC reported that Peloton shares fell 11.35% on Thursday, which was the same day of the debut of the Sex and the City spinoff titled “And Just Like That … ” By the following Sunday, Ryan Reynolds commissioned this new advertisement for the company.

Peloton on Twitter: “And just like that…he’s alive. / Twitter”

And just like that…he’s alive.

At the end of the first episode of the Sex and The City reboot, Carrie Bradshaw’s love interest clips into his Peloton for his 1,000th ride and when he dismounts, he has a heart attach and dies. Peloton was unaware of the plot line when HBO applied to use the company’s trademarks, instructor, and other intellectual property. The ordeal begs the question: does a company that doesn’t love its portrayal have any legal recourse? Before Peloton could entertain filing suit against HBO for the show’s impact on its stock price, Ryan Reynolds stepped in once again.

Almost two years ago to the day, Reynolds came to Peloton’s rescue. An ad for Reynolds-owned Aviation Gin starred Monica Ruiz, the actress who became infamous as the “Peloton wife” in an ad spot that earned a negative market reaction and plenty of Twitter pile-ons. As the story goes, Reynolds heard about the Peloton ad at 2:34 PM on a Tuesday as the company’s stock was falling and turned around his own ad within hours. It earned $9.3 million in ad exposure in just two days. Reynolds’s quick reaction brought levity to what was an overall grim moment for Peloton.

Reynolds has struck gold again with his latest attempt to pump … life … into Peloton’s sinking stock. A 38-second ad spot narrated by Reynolds puts a new spin on Peloton’s recent association with the death of major Sex and the City character Mr. Big in the new HBO reboot And Just Like That. Peloton was collateral damage in the show’s push to modernize the classic series. In the reboot, Big has become a Peloton junkie, and his affinity for his favorite instructor mirrors the attachment that many other loyal riders have for the spin class’s stars. As the New York Times reported, Peloton appears to have been blindsided by the appearance in the show and could have taken potential legal recourse.

Instead, Reynolds, one of the most respected (and perhaps unexpected) marketers of late made lemonade out of lemons with his marketing company Maximum Effort’s new spot. It was a similarly quick turnaround to the one seen in 2019: the show’s first two episodes premiered on December 9; throughout the weekend Peloton lit up on Twitter as people responded to the plot twist. The ad was filmed on Saturday with no involvement from HBO, according to the Times, and it was released on Sunday.

Peloton on Twitter: “if we can put that spot together in 48 hours, you can do your workout today / Twitter”

if we can put that spot together in 48 hours, you can do your workout today

In the viral advertisement, a comedic voiceover by Reynolds reminds people that regular cycling is in fact good for you, as Chris Noth (who plays Mr. Big) appears alive and cozied up to the ad’s other star, Peloton instructor Jess King. The ad spot reclaimed the narrative in Peloton’s favor after its stock fell by as much as 11% in the aftermath of the show’s premiere. The timing of the bi-annual Reynolds boost couldn’t be better.

Peloton’s still struggling to maintain its position in an increasingly crowded market and has shown signs that it may be in for a tumultuous year of rebuilding the momentum found over the pandemic. The feature in And Just Like That is hardly its only problem from this year; it had to recall its treadmill, it has dealt with manufacturing shortages, decreased demand, and intensifying competition. In Peloton’s Diffusion, we explained:

There is mounting pressure from iFit (1 million subscribers), BeachBody (2.6 million subscribers), and a host of nascent fitness apps like Obe Fitness who are each eating into Peloton’s mobile app subscriber-base. There is market pressure from Lululemon and Mirror, Tonal’s continued growth, and the resilience of companies like NordicTrack and Life Fitness. And then there is Equinox and SoulCycle, who have the hardware to compete for Peloton’s prized in-home market and the physical real estate to attract affluent users out of their homes. And lastly, there is the end of the pandemic.

The events of the past week have gone to show that Peloton’s greatest assets are its star instructors. Put them at the forefront and the stock might respond in kind, they’re Peloton’s beating heart.

Edited by Hilary Milnes with art by Christina Williams 

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