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Miami Heat's Shaquille O'Neal  looks for a shot during the first half of NBA basketball action in Los Angeles, Monday, Jan. 16, 2006.  (MATT SAYLES/AP)

Miami Heat's Shaquille O'Neal  looks for a shot during the first half of NBA basketball action in Los Angeles, Monday, Jan. 16, 2006. 

(MATT SAYLES/AP)

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

He healed Shaq, but his business is still on the bench Add to ...

One problem for Core X is positioning. The product looks complicated, seemingly for use by pros only. “It doesn’t look like it’s fun to do,” admits Mr. Cowan, “and that’s what sells right now.” But more fundamentally, according to several consultants, Core X lacked a clear focus when it went to market – and it has failed to spark an emotional flare.

The trick is to turn something that may in fact be a need into a want, says Graham Robertson, who spent more than a decade marketing products for Pfizer Inc. and then Johnson & Johnson.

“A lot of the Core X messaging is rational,” says Mr. Robertson, who works now at Level5 Strategic Brand Advisors in Toronto. “When people have back issues, muscle issues, it’s highly emotional – the emotional component is the big missing element [in Core X’s marketing]. Every brand has that magic point. The magic is where it gets emotional, where the product becomes a brand.”

The challenges facing Mr. Cowan and company are daunting. Even a big specialty player such as Nautilus Inc., with its well-known Bowflex brand, has seen its stock collapse 90 per cent in the past five years as sales plunged by two-thirds. The fitness market is tough. Still, Core X’s salesman-in-chief remains confident of ultimate success.

“Core X is on the cusp,” Mr. Cowan says. “This could blow up to be huge.”

It could also fade into obscurity, like so many faddish products before it. As for Mr. McKechnie, he says he does not stay awake at night devising ways to sell Core X, despite his stake in the company.

Last year, he joined the Toronto Raptors. The role of director of sports science is the most expansive of his career. Bryan Colangelo, the team president, calls Mr. McKechnie a “guru.”

Business is more complicated. Mr. McKechnie is not a businessman. He is a healer.

“Day to day, I don’t run it,” Mr. McKechnie says of Core X. “Obviously, Core X is used in my life, every single day. For the most part, I’m promoting it constantly.

“Would I like to see it do better? Of course I would. Has it got potential? Yes, it does. It has huge upside. But like anything, it takes time.”

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