Many have called Peloton’s cameo in the new Sex And The City revival a product placement gone wrong. But there’s yet another plot twist: Peloton says it never signed an official product placement deal with HBO Max.
Shortly after last week’s premiere of And Just Like That, during which Mr. Big (played by Chris Noth) suffered a fatal heart attack after riding a Peloton bike, viewers wondered why the fitness brand would have allowed its equipment to be used in such a scene. Well, Peloton’s global head of marketing, Dara Treseder, tells Forbes that the company never gave HBO Max permission to use one of its bikes.
“HBO’s use of the Bike+ was not a product/brand placement,” Treseder says. ”Peloton did not have a formal product placement agreement with either the show or HBO. This was a casting opportunity for one of our instructors, not a brand integration, paid or otherwise. The show procured our equipment on their own, not through us.”
In response, Peloton worked over the weekend with actor Ryan Reynolds and his advertising agency, Maximum Effort, to create an ad in which Mr. Big is alive and well. The commercial, which aired on Sunday, features Noth and Jess King—the Peloton instructor featured in the show—sitting in front of a fireplace, saying “to new beginnings.” The narrator, Reynolds, then lists the number of ways regular cycling can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues.
MORE FOR YOU
According to Treseder, Peloton had already been in talks with Maximum Effort as an early client of the agency’s new content-creation subscription service. (Maximum Effort, which was acquired by MNTN earlier this year, calls it a “Creative-As-A-Subscription,” or CaaS, rather than SaaS.) After the episode aired, Treseder says the company contacted Reynolds and Maximum Effort and quickly produced the commercial to “reinforce the important health narrative” of Peloton.
“Peloton Members are already taking to social media to tell real life stories of how Peloton and cardiovascular exercise are good for you, help millions of real people lead long, happy and healthy lives,” she says.
The collaboration with Reynolds gained on Twitter. According Sprinklr data provided to Forbes, Twitter mentions of “Peloton,” “#Peloton,” “@onepeloton,” “Peleton,” or “#peleton” totaled 5,000 on December 8 before jumping to 20,000 by December 10 a day after the episode premiered. Mentions then dropped to 10,000 on December 11 before jumping to 25,000 on December 12 after the release of Peloton’s parody response.
Peloton shares fell sharply after the episode debuted. And while the stock price has improved slightly since then, it has yet to reach the pre-episode price. Some experts say Peloton could sue over the wrongful use of its trademark, but the company declined to comment on whether it’s planning any legal action. (HBO declined to comment for this story, but the show’s executive producer told Vanity Fair last week that he has a Peloton and that the episode had “nothing to do” with the brand.)
Though the Sex And The City spoof marks the first time Reynolds and Peloton have worked together, the two have history. Shortly after its controversial 2019 holiday commercial—in which a woman is gifted a bike from her husband—Aviation Gin, also founded by the Hollywood star, produced a satirical video with the same actress drinking gin martinis with friends. Both the Aviation and the Sex And The City ads feature the line “to new beginnings”—a phrase that might also describe Peloton and Reynolds’ budding business partnership.