The tremendous benefits of taking a product line approach for similar software-intensive systems are well documented [Clements & Northrop 02a]. What’s not as clear, however, is how to effectively achieve an operational software product line, often called product line adoption. The “Launching and Institutionalizing” practice area of the Framework for Software Product Line Practice (ramework for Software Product Line Practice is a service mark of Carnegie Mellon University.) lays out what must occur in organizational adoption, as well as useful specific practices [Clements & Northrop 02b]. Related work has involved: Böckle and associates, who further studied software product line adoption and institutionalization needs from an organizational standpoint [Böckle et al. 02]; Bosch, who examined the maturity and evaluation of product line artifacts [Bosch 02]; and Schmidt and Verlage, who describe the economic impact of product line adoption [Schmidt & Verlage 02]. The road to product line success is really organization specific, and yet none of the above research has carefully considered the context in which product line adoption takes place, or the influence that context can and should have on the adoption strategy, and, consequently, on the success or failure of the adoption effort. Our main objective in this paper is to explore the context for product line adoption at multiple levels and then to demonstrate the usefulness of that context characterization by means of an example. After discussing what product line adoption entails, we divide the context landscape into multiple levels, discuss the influencing factors at each one, and investigate the potential relationships between the levels. Choosing core asset development as a specific adoption objective, we show how understanding and characterizing the adoption context can help you choose an appropriate strategy. We summarize our results and then conclude with projections about how this reasoning can be further applied for greater advantage.