Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian to have ever competed in the history of humanity. With 28 Olympic Medals, there is no more exceptionally decorated athlete in any sport.

Now enjoying his post-athletic career rather than doing flip turns he’s flipping millions of dollars with endorsement deals.

Aside from the newly signed paid endorsement deal with Leesa Mattress, he currently has many other lucrative endorsements deals with companies that include Speedo, Visa, Omega watches and Under Armour, and has earned an estimated $75 million in endorsements over the course of his career.

Phelps went on the road show to promote the Leesa Mattress deal this week taking to both TV and Social Media.

Leesa And Michael Phelps Directly Violated The FTC Laws

Leesa Mattress Review | “The Leesa mattress is becoming a well-known direct to consumer bed in a box. They use good materials, and the mattress sleeps well. We found the mattress to sleep a bit soft, and when tested with individuals over 180 pounds there was a massive sinking effect.”  Click here.

Later, Phelps took to Instagram to publish this cool picture that represents him diving off a (swimming) block onto a Leesa Mattress.

Leesa And Michael Phelps Directly Violated The FTC Laws

At first, we thought this was an excellent artistic representation of his transition in the pool to the endorsement world.  But, as we are rooted in Consumer Interest we noticed one key identifier missing from this post.

The FTC has ramped up their digital efforts to protect the consumer by ensuring that advertisements are clearly labeled in social media posts.

This uptick in celebrities peddling brand messages on their personal accounts, light on explicit disclosure, has not gone unnoticed by the U.S. government. The Federal Trade Commission is planning to get tougher: Users need to be clear when they’re getting paid to promote something, and hashtags like #ad, #sp, #sponsored –common forms of identification– are not always enough. The agency will be putting the onus on the advertisers to make sure they comply, according to Michael Ostheimer, a deputy in the FTC’s Ad Practices Division. It’s a move that could make the posts seem less authentic, reducing their impact.

“We’ve been interested in deceptive endorsements for decades, and this is a new way in which they are appearing,” he said. “We believe consumers put stock in endorsements and we want to make sure they are not being deceived.”

Personal endorsements are as old as advertising itself, and there’s always been abuse. So when the FTC highlights influencer marketing as having a disclosure problem, it can come across as unfair, said Stefania Pomponi, the founder of Clever Girls Collective Inc., a marketing agency that works with brands including Disney and Ford.

“If consumers don’t read the words, then there is no effective disclosure,” Ostheimer said. “If you have seven other hashtags at the end of a tweet and it’s mixed up with all these other things, it’s easy for consumers to skip over that. The real test is, did consumers read it and comprehend it?

In this instance, Leesa completely neglected to ensure that consumers were appropriately advised that this is simply a paid endorsement for their mattress product.  It’s clear a fair amount of money was spent to capture this shot.  From proper lighting to complete motion capture, it is evident Leesa did not spare any expense to freeze this moment in time.

As the FTC continues to evolve with modern technology platforms, it’s the responsibility of the company paying for the endorsement to ensure they are fully compliant.  With close to 100k potential consumers exposed to this deceptive marketing how will Leesa make this right?

Final Thought – look at Phelp’s latest posts – can you tell this was a paid advertisement immediately?  We couldn’t either …

Leesa And Michael Phelps Directly Violated The FTC Laws

Update

Within hours of our article going live Phelps published another paid endorsement advertisement.  This time for Blue Apron with the appropriate approved FTC advertisement distinction.

Leesa And Michael Phelps Directly Violated The FTC Laws

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