Updated: Dec 17, 2021
WARNING - SPOILERS AHEAD
If you are a Sex and the City fan, you may have been waiting on bated breath for the new sequel miniseries, And Just Like That...
The series revisits Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte, with notable holdout Samantha (played by Kim Cattrall) refusing to participate. While Samantha's character was written out via a feud, which mirrored the real-life one between the actresses, the show was also forced to deal with death. Actor Willie Garson, who played a best friend of Carrie Bradshaw, died of pancreatic cancer weeks after filming his part in the series. Producers have decided not to write Garson's death into the series, but another decision about death had jaws agape, and more than just fans reeling.
In the first episode, fans see Carrie is now married to longtime partner 'Big,' played by Chris Noth. While Carrie is out at a friend's daughter's piano recital, Big takes a ride on his beloved Peloton bike.
The company knew that they would be featured on the show, and even loaned out one of their instructors to play a fictional instructor on the show.
What Peloton was NOT told was how their name and product would be used. Despite inquiries, they were told that any storylines were being kept strictly confidential, and thus had to trust that their brand would be well-represented.
Peloton fans were then shocked when Big has a heart attack during his bike ride, which turns out to be fatal.
Needless to say that this was a tremendous hit for the company, and the timing could not have been worse. One of the bike's longtime riders had a similarly fatal heart attack only days before after a particularly vigorous ride and had just been memorialized by his favourite instructor.
"HBO procured the Peloton Bike on their own," company spokesperson Denise Kelly told Buzzfeed News. "Peloton was aware that a Bike would be used in the episode and that Jess King would be portraying a fictional Peloton instructor."
"Due to confidentiality reasons, HBO did not disclose the larger context surrounding the scene to Peloton in advance," Kelly said.
While Peloton has undergone numerous publicity scandals, this one was particularly brutal. The show's reboot had been long-awaited by millions of fans, and now the first episode showed Pelton in a terrible light.
The incident was an abject communications failure. The show's producers took a partner's generosity and maligned it into something that knowingly hurt their brand. Amazingly, though, Peloton got the last laugh.
Enter Ryan Reynolds
Only days after the news broke, the internet was abuzz with an entirely new take on the story.
A commercial entitled "Unspoiler Alert" was released. It featured actor Chris Noth sitting on a couch next to Jess King, the Peloton instructor who was featured on the show. The two of them are flirting seductively in front of a fireplace, with King asking how he's feeling, and then offering him to take another ride. The ad ends with the voice of Ryan Reynolds, extolling the health benefits of exercise and cycling.
Brilliant. In fact, the ad was so brilliant, some assumed that the whole thing had been contrived as one large-scale publicity stunt.
The advertisement was more like a masterstroke of quick-thinking by Peloton. Unbeknownst to the TV show's producers, Peloton had just begun talks only days before with Ryan Reynold's marketing company and was already exploring ways to work together.
When the heart attack story broke, Reynolds and his team jumped into action. They managed to get a script, set, and stars together and began filming the spot within an astounding 24 hours.
So far, the spot has been viewed over 700,000 times on Youtube, and thousands more on Twitter.
The moral of the story...
In any small business' marketing journey, there are obstacles and challenges. Not every customer experience will be positive, and not every review will be favourable. Not every potential customer will say yes, and not every transaction will go through.
Aside from the general advice to stay positive and keep moving forward, be careful about burning bridges. Even though Peloton had the last laugh, it's the And Just Like That producers that needlessly took a scorched earth approach to their partnership. If the brand had agreed that might have been different, but instead, they took advantage of what could have been a lucrative partnership.
Don't burn bridges with those who say no, and don't take advantage of those who say yes.
Secondly, my friend's late father had a saying that you should "let your biggest problem be your biggest laugh." Naturally, this takes a certain strength, which Peloton's marketing team had in spades.
Instead of buckling under the pressure, Peloton (with some help from a marketing-savvy superstar) got to work, quickly responding in a way that garnered just as much, if not more, good press than the original incident did negative attention.
Peloton understood the power of seizing opportunity, and ultimately they had the last laugh.
And Just Like That, The Story Changed Again
While the commercial seemed like it may have been the final twist in the story, that was far from the end. Since its release, multiple women have come forward accusing star Chris Noth of sexual assault - a pattern of behaviour that allegedly goes back decades.
While Noth denies the allegations, Peloton has pulled the ad in response. The company has stated that "every single sexual assault accusation must be taken seriously," and while Noth denies the allegations, the company is now seeking to distance itself from the star.