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Peloton’s Response to HBO Max’s “Fatal” Product Placement

  • Nadine Ghiran - SUBTA
  • Dec 15, 2021
  • 4 minute read

Reader discretion: This blog contains spoilers for HBO Max’s latest “Sex and the City” reboot “And Just Like That…” 

HBO Max’s “Sex and the City” reboot, “And Just Like That…” received a lot of hype from anticipating fans. All but one: Peloton.

Peloton’s stock dropped 11%, reported by The New York Times, after Mr. Big (played by Chris Noth) died of a heart attack moments after finishing his 1,000th ride on a Peloton Bike+. 

The big questions are — did Peloton know of the product placement in the streaming service’s anticipated show? And how did it respond to the backlash from the unexpected consequence of riding one of its bikes? Read on to find out.

Peloton’s Knowledge of Its Brand’s Product Placement

There are two types of product placement agreements, Nancy Prager, an intellectual property and entertainment lawyer, told The New York Times: “One in which a company pays to be featured in a show or movie, and another in which a production company procures a trademarked product to be used onscreen.” 

The latter is true for HBO Max. Dara Treseder, Peloton’s Global Head of Marketing, told Forbes that the streaming service never received permission to use Peloton’s bike in the series, but instead procured the equipment on its own.

“Peloton did not have a formal product placement agreement with either the show or HBO,” she said. “This was a casting opportunity for one of our instructors, not a brand integration, paid or otherwise.”

While Peloton declined to comment on any legal action, the workout subscription brand used other methods to regain credibility.

Peloton’s 48-Hour Turnaround Response

Updated 12/17/21: The following ad has been removed from all platforms following sexual assault allegations against Chris Noth. To read more about that developing story, visit The Hollywood Reporter

Peloton’s response is nothing short of creative; the company partnered with Ryan Reynolds and his advertising agency, Maximum Effort, to produce a lighthearted ad combating the negative press from HBO Max’s series.

“We’ve been talking to [Treseder] for the past few weeks generally and when the episode hit, she reached out immediately,” Reynolds told AdWeek. “Luckily, we have some experience doing this so the rest — over the last 48 hours — is history.”

Peloton’s Twitter post of the ad received more than 7,000 retweets, nearly 9,000 responses, and more than 58,000 likes (and counting). Sprinklr provided Forbes with data showing that mentions of Peloton jumped 25% a day after the HBO Max episode aired and then 40% after Peloton’s parody ad.

Reynolds told The Hollywood Reporter that the ad cost $80,000 to make but generated a $900 million restoration for Peloton.

The company relied on more than just a creative campaign. It leaned on its medical experts, including Peloton’s Cardiologist 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 told the Los Angeles Times.

She continues, “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.”

Subscriptions and Product Placement

Product placement has many benefits when done appropriately, especially as subscriptions are becoming an integral part of life. 

Brand integration within TV shows and movies is proven to increase brand awareness and exposure, according to BEN. As marketing strategies continue to include connected TV advertising and product placement, subscriptions can leverage the growing trend.

Photo credit: HBO Max

As the product placement landscape is changing to include subscriptions regularly, brands might want to have some kind of contingency plan in place for situations like the one Peloton and HBO Max find themselves in — when mentions go wrong. 

It’s important to monitor conversations about your brand, according to Paul Chambers, CEO of SUBTA. One way to do this is having alerts set up for your brand name and variations of it to catch when others are engaging in conversation. A free method to use is Google Alerts.

Additionally, there are many paid platforms that brands can leverage and monitor brand mentions.

It’s equally as important for other subscription brands to have resources at their fingertips to act quickly in case brand mentions go wrong. A few ways to prepare can be:

  • Having legal counsel to advise you on the best next steps
  • Establishing relationships with creative collaborators that will meet your brand’s needs quickly
  • Maintaining a strong network of industry professionals or having a mentor that can provide advice

For example, Peloton’s quick response to a “fatal” product placement was due to Peloton’s already established relationship with Reynolds regarding MNTN’s new Creative-as-a-Subscription™ service. It’s possible that without the connection, Peloton’s response might have looked differently.

“I find it interesting that the ‘And Just Like That…’ incident sent Peloton’s stock down for a brief moment. However, nothing should be surprising anymore,” says Chambers. “I think Peloton’s ad response is funny and perfectly appropriate. It shows the company has a personality and understands the importance of quick collaborations to share its brand message.”

Brand licensing and product placement marketing are great ways for subscription brands to increase their exposure and reach. With the right strategy — and emergency plan when things go wrong — in place, subscriptions can integrate even the TV and movie industries just as much as they have integrated lives.

Key Takeaways:

  • HBO Max’s latest series “And Just Like That…” featured Mr. Big (played by Chris North) dying of a heart attack moments after finishing his 1,000th ride on a Peloton Bike+. 
  • Peloton suffered an 11% stock price drop and bad press from the unexpected death.
  • The workout subscription’s response was a creative ad in partnership with Maximum Effort that dispelled any connection between the Peloton bike and cardiac arrest.
  • Ryan Reynolds, Co-Founder of Maximum Effort, told The Hollywood Reporter that the ad cost $80,000 to make but generated a $900 million restoration for Peloton.

Looking for more ways to grow your brand? Discover the latest trends on how subscription businesses can expand by attending SubSummit!