Peloton New Ad is a Masterclass In Spinning Bad Press

Another day, another crisis at Peloton, one that caused stocks to plummet even further. Was it another mass recall? No. Was it the continuing realization that no one needs an at-home exercise routine as we return to “normal life” (though Omicron may have something to say about that)? No.

This week’s crisis is that a certain high-profile character in a not-as-high-profile-as-it- was TV show died from cardiac arrest after — you guessed it — riding a Peloton bike. In simpler terms, a fictional character from a fictional program died after using a non-fictional piece of machinery. And the world went bananas over it, leaving the company suffering the all-too-real consequences. The company’s stock dropped 11% in the hours after the show aired — at one point, it left stocks down 73% for the year.

Not long after Peloton:

Credit Suisse downgraded the stock, reducing the price target from $112 to $50. (The downgrade was due to other issues. But the sharp plunge won’t have helped). There was reputational damage, too; the brand was taken to the cleaners over social media and meme culture.

Peloton was aware that its product would use in the Show. But it appears it was blindsided by just exactly how it would be used. After the episode revealed it had been used as a death machine to kill off a main character, the company was left in a PR tailspin. Peloton spokesperson Denise Kelly said, “[the company] was aware that a Bike would be used…[but] due to confidentiality reasons, HBO did not disclose the larger context surrounding the scene to Peloton in advance.”

The backlash was so intense:

That the company felt compelled to release a surreal statement defending its product from this (again, not real) event. Speaking to the La Times, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventative cardiologist and member of Peloton’s health and wellness advisory council, noted the character’s “extravagant lifestyle,” and suggested that “these lifestyle choices and perhaps even his family history, were the likely cause of his death. Riding his Peloton Bike may have even helped delay his cardiac event.”

Unfortunately, the statement only increased the media attention, with many questioning why had the company felt the need to respond to a fictional program. But just as the situation was spinning out of control and the wheels were falling off, the company produced a mic drop moment that has flipped the bad press on its head.

The Peloton, titled Unspoiler Alert:

Shows the not dead anymore character in a scenic Christmas setting with a lady friend. With a glint in his eye, he asks her, “fancy one more ride?” before proclaiming that life is too short. As the screen pulls back, it reveals two Peloton bikes side by side. Cue laughter, and Ryan Reynolds listing all the various benefits to cardio exercise in double speed like he’s reading out a radio commercial.

The advert create Reynold’s ad agency, Maximum Effort, who are become adept at real-time responses to current events. Fun aside, in 2019, the agency shot to fame after it poked fun at Pelton with its ‘The Gift That Doesn’t Give Back’ ad, which used the actress from the infamous Peloton campaign in which the husband bought his wife a Peloton bike for Christmas. Clearly, the company took the joke well.

The ad immediately blew up on Peloton.

Getting over 1 million views in its first two hours, and over 2.5 million after 12. However, despite its big splash, the ad will likely do little to convince new users to buy the product. While it does tout the benefits of the bike, sales aren’t the point here. Instead, this was an advert designe capitalize on the company’s moment in the press — even if it was for a morbid reason — and put a positive spin on it. In a year where the company has faced problem after problem, it decided to face this one head on. And it ticked all the boxes.