Monday, October 7, 2013

A Kick-Butt Innovation for Sport Consumption?

Technology enhancements have made the experience of viewing sporting events at home a viable substitute for attending in person without the traffic, long lines, and unruly spectators. In fact, the viewing experience has become of such high quality that it may actually threaten revenue streams associated with live events such as ticket sales and foodservice. An innovation by the Guitammer Company has the potential to further shake up the in-home viewing experience... literally.

A Kick in the Butt for Sport Properties
Guitammer's ButtKicker line of products has brought a new dimension to consumption in movie theaters, home theaters, and video gaming. Now, ButtKicker is poised to change the sporting event viewing experience by making possible "4D" broadcasts. Its first venture is a partnership with the National Hot Rod Association and its media partner, ESPN. The ButtKicker's 4D sports product is a device that when attached at the base of sofa acts like a "silent subwoofer." Sensations of roaring cars that fans experience at NHRA races are replicated through the ButtKicker device. The product is touted for having simple set up, but the $299.99 price may slow the adoption rate of the 4D sport consumption experience.Price aside, introduction of the ButtKicker for sports is a call to sports marketers and businesses that are suppliers to the sports industry to explore how to blend technology with underserved customer needs to guide new product development.

Innovation versus Novelty
For the ButtKicker or any new product to succeed, four criteria must be met:
  • Relative advantage - The innovation adds value compared to status quo; ButtKicker certainly meets this criterion by bringing the action into viewers' living rooms.
  • Compatibility - The innovation must be congruent with consumers' desires and behaviors. Technology has become very pervasive in our lives, so incorporating a device that transmits "signals" from a live event to our television is not as radical an idea as it would have been just a few years ago. If ButtKicker was for drag racing only it would likely have dim future prospects. But, if the product can be integrated into a wider variety of sports broadcasts the price point may be easier to justify.
  • Complexity - Although the technology that makes a device like ButtKicker possible might be complex, the fundamental benefit provided can be easily explained and communicated. Complexity is inversely related to an innovation's odds of succeeding in the long run.
  • Trialability - Can the innovation be sampled or used prior to committing to making a purchase? Given the price of the ButtKicker product for sports, this criterion might be the most challenging to overcome. Guitammer can demonstrate to 4D sports viewing experience using an exhibit at sporting events as well as partnering with retailers on in-store demonstrations. 
A straightforward definition of innovation is "adding new value." If the answer to this question is not "yes," then it begs the question why an innovation would be brought to market. Perhaps there is impact as a novelty item, but in the long run customer value, not novelty, will determine if an innovation succeeds.