Marketing and PR Case Study: Peleton's Sex and the City PR Fiasco
This is a quick case study building off of my note in my newsletter last week where I ragged on Peleton a bit. Turns out it was even worse than I thought and my favorite newsletter writer on the planet, Matt Levine, also wrote about it in the past Monday edition of his Money Matters newsletter. Here's some of the best excerpts:
The connected fitness company’s Bike drove a key plot point in the reboot of “Sex and the City” on HBO Max, and the company’s reaction to the news raised questions among investors about its handling of its image. … On Thursday, shares fell 11%. That was the same day as the debut of “And Just Like That ... ,” the latest iteration in the “Sex and the City” franchise, with the first episode featuring a dramatic scene involving Peloton’s Bike.
Yeah, as a marketing professional and an investor I am questioning you Peleton, in many, many ways. But it gets better (or worse).
Peloton issued a statement to various media organizations from Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist and member of the company’s health and wellness advisory council, that said she was saddened by the news of Mr. Big’s heart attack.
Okay... let's pause here. Really?! I thought the extravagant lifestyle quote was just from a company spokesperson, but no they actually coordinated with an actual Doctor to write a statement. Mind you - if a tv show wants to use a trademarked product, it must get a special license to show the product and brand logos. So presumably, Peleton knew their bike would be in the show and the first question I would ask is if I was on their marketing team would be something along the lines of "how will my product be displayed/discussed? Can I get a basic overview of the script?" but no, they decided to do "damage control" after the fact with the good Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum...
“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,” she said in a statement.
Dr. Suzanne is citing past episodes as evidence. 🤯
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.”
I can't imagine Dr. Suzanne has great PR advisors, but if she did, she should have them hustling to pitch cable tv networks on her own daytime tv show to compete with Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz. I think Matt brings the point home pretty well...
Look I am not a cardiologist but I am going to disagree with the doctor here, the cause of Mr. Big’s death was not cocktails, cigars or big steaks, or Peloton, the cause of Mr. Big’s death is that television writers wrote a script in which Mr. Big, a fictional character, dies; the actor who plays Mr. Big is fine
Dumb PR decisions aside, they did redeem themselves a bit with this ad showing Mr. Big is just fine (it's narrated by Ryan Reynolds). And of course, Peleton just can't catch a break: they pulled the ad down after the actor in the commercial, Chris Noth, is being accused of sexual assault.
Tips for Peleton: don't do the rebuttal PR stunt, do just skip to the funny commercial but don't feature an actor who may be a sexual predator.
I do hope for my Peleton shares sake that they rebound (I think they will. Here's a good analysis on the company if your'e interested). It's a cool brand, I hate to see companies with that aura stumble like this. I'm rooting for you Peleton!