Shaq: Product Launch Success or Failure?

Now that the sheet has finally been pulled off to reveal the current model Phoenix Suns with Shaquille O’Neal, let’s engage in some product launch analysis. (Okay, Kobe, don’t get jealous. If you prefer, you can substitute “Lakers” and “Gasol” accordingly in this exercise…)

What, Shaq and Suns don’t qualify as a product launch?

Admittedly, the CFT (cross-functional team) meetings likely didn’t have strong propeller-head representation, but I assure you that the major stakeholders were in on the launch including sales, marketing, product management and accounting. It’s just that, in this case, some of the titles are different from the usual suspects found at technology concerns. For instance, the “product manager” would be replaced with “coach”.

Launch Clinic does a nice job defining the elements of building a successful product launch plan and much blogging has been done as well, so let’s agree to fast-forward to the salient points for our discussion:

  • Objective – To win the NBA Championship.
  • Market analysis – The market leader (Spurs) and other competitors (Lakers, Celtics) threatened the Suns’ position in the market.
  • Product Requirements – Championship experience (4 rings), toughness (check out the knot on Raja Bell’s head after colliding with Shaq’s elbow), offensive rebounding and defense in the paint (9 boards, two blocked shots) to augment the Suns’s up-tempo offensive pace.
  • Budget – $40MM for the two seasons after this one, plus the Suns had to trade away All-Star Shawn Marion
  • Lead Generation – Ugh, hello, SportsCenter, anyone?

So, was the launch successful? How should I know – it’s only been one game and, after all, I’m just a marketing schlub. But, I’d bet that the Nielsen ratings for last night’s inaugural game that pitted the new-and-improved Suns against The Big Cactus’ former teammate (Kobe Bryant) and coach (Phil Jackson) were favorable – in spite of the fact that the game was played on a Wednesday and ended around midnight on the East Coast – if, for no other reason, to satisfy the curiosity of whether the Diesel has any fuel left in the tank to keep up with the run-run offense.

On second thought, aren’t most product launches supposed to generate revenue? In that case, it’s likely that the launch of Shaq and the Suns will be a success. Shaq will draw viewership. He’ll put “cheeks in seats”. And he’ll sell team merchandise (Shaq’s was the top-selling jersey in the 2004-5 season, the year he joined the Miami Heat).

Hey, wait a minute, is there any coincidence that the Suns and Launch Clinic are in Phoenix?

David Daniels

David Daniels


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