Ad Alert

LeBron James and Tonal

The NBA superstar isn’t just cashing endorsement checks.

Ad Alert

LeBron James and Tonal

LeBron James has been able to lock up a number of lucrative endorsement deals throughout his NBA career.

One of the brands James backs is Tonal, which sells a “smart” home gym for $4,000. But in that partnership, James isn’t just cashing endorsement checks. He also has a financial stake in Tonal as an investor – a fact that isn’t disclosed in the company’s TV ad above.

In the ad, James, who is playing in his 21st season this year after breaking the all-time scoring record last year, seems to attribute some of his NBA longevity to Tonal.

“Do you think strength is a gift? It’s not,” James says. “Everything you’ve seen me do, was made possible by what you don’t see.”

In the commercial, we see James working out with Tonal. (And if you’ve seen the ad, you’re not alone. It has aired nearly 40,000 times on national TV, for an estimated ad spend of more than $15 million, according to ad-tracking firm And it’s still running.)

While it may be obvious that James is a paid spokesman for Tonal (and therefore disclosing that material connection may be overkill), what is not so obvious is that he has also invested in Tonal. And here’s why that’s a problem: It’s the connections between endorsers and brands that are not obvious that require disclosures, according to the FTC.

In this case, if consumers knew that James was also an investor, that might affect the weight or credibility they attach to his endorsement. So the NBA superstar’s financial stake in the company should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed in the ad. reached out to Tonal for comment. Check back for updates.

Find more of our coverage on celebrity endorsements here.

Our Ad Alerts are not just about false and deceptive marketing issues, but may also be about ads that, although not necessarily deceptive, should be viewed with caution. Ad Alerts can also be about single issues and may not include a comprehensive list of all marketing issues relating to the brand discussed.

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