McClafferty, Nistico, Brody Hoping to Make a Splash Post-Marley

The executive team behind the launch of Marley’s Mellow Mood has teamed up with the brand’s former head of marketing to launch a company that will develop and sell a portfolio of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverage brands.

Beginning with a suite of products that includes a pair of licensed products and a brand imported from Brazil, Kevin McClaffery and Robert Nistico said they have high hopes for the company, which they have called Splash Beverages.

Splash Beverage CEO Robert Nistico

Two of the properties are well known: TapouT, a line of branded MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) clothing, training gear, and accessories will become an exercise/recovery drink; the pair also have licensed the rights to develop a brand of teas from the family of Bruce Lee, the deceased international martial arts star and actor. The third, Amazoo Acai, is a popular brand of ready-to-drink, shelf-stable acai products that are widely sold in Brazil. Splash will have the rights to develop the brand in the U.S.

Both Nistico, who was president of Marley during its 2010 and 2011 rollout, and McClafferty, who succeeded Nistico as president and eventually became CEO during a period of broad DSD uptake, have deep resumes in beverage. They will be joined by CMO Lee Brody, who was Marley’s global head of marketing before departing recently. The organization will be based in Florida, but with a national sales team.

McClafferty said he has begun courting DSD houses, and is “waiting for the ink to dry” on eight contracts in the West before rolling out the first wave of Splash’s products in January. He added that he expects to be on the road for the next several weeks to re-activate his DSD connections.

“We’re making sure that people know we’re still alive and well and have a great proposition for them,” he said.

Nistico, who has worked with Gallo and Red Bull North America, started working on the TapouT brand soon after leaving Marley. He said he had been brought onto the project by Authentic Brands Group, the same company that had licensed the House of Marley brand to Viva Beverage, which makes Marley Mellow Mood.

“I love the licensing model,” Nistico said. “There are thousands of SKUs trying to get to the same linear footage in the store, and with the right established brand, you break through the bottleneck.”

Under Nistico, who will be CEO, Splash’s plans have grown to include both importing beverage brands and exporting them to countries in South America and Central America, if possible, as well as helping lend some sales and marketing support to brands that may need support.

McClafferty, the company’s president, said that the incubation model involves equity or outright brand ownership. He said he is excited to have a portfolio of products to work with, but, he added, “We want to be extremely focused on a short portfolio with brands that complement each other.”

The partners said more information will be coming soon. Their announcement is below:


FT. LAUDERDALE, November 6, 2013 – The two men who led Marley Beverage Company during the company’s rise as one of the fastest-growing beverage start-ups in recent memory are at it again.

Kevin McClafferty and Robert Nistico, along with other beverage and financial professionals, have created Splash Beverage Group (SBG) with the goal of taking wholly owned brands and joint ventures on the same trajectory they charted for Marley. SBG’s portfolio includes several exciting product lines and will quickly expand with both non-alcoholic and spirits brands.

“I grew up in the spirits world and have always liked the business model of companies like Diageo,” said Nistico, who began his career at Gallo and later was one of the chief architects for Red Bull in North America. “Large spirits houses own a number of brands and also manage others in key geographies. It’s a smart model that creates a win-win for manufacturer, distributor and retailer.”

McClafferty agrees, adding that while SBG provides strategic sales and marketing guidance to brands, it should in no way be confused with a broker.

“We are brand owners and have equity in every brand we work with,” said McClafferty, who was CEO of Talking Rain prior to joining Nistico at Marley in 2010. Previously, he held senior sales posts at Bolthouse Farms, Sara Lee and Nabisco. “It’s critical that we have skin in the game and go into the market as true partners with a vested interest in the success of our brands.”

First up for SBG is TapouT, an advanced performance beverage that takes its name from the global apparel & athletic equipment brand closely associated with Mixed Martial Arts, the fastest growing sport in the US and abroad. Leading the MMA charge is the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Tapout is the official lifestyle apparel of the UFC, the fastest growing professional sports organization in the world. In the US, UFC is more popular among men 18-34 than the NHL or NASCAR.

“Coming from Red Bull and Marley, we understand the magic of infusing beverage brands with strong pop culture and lifestyle elements,” said Nistico.

“People are drawn to brands because of common interests and passions and we plan to build our portfolio keeping this concept at the center.”

While still in its formative stages, SBG will leverage its two leaders’ strong relationships with direct-store-delivery (DSD) distributors across the country. DSD is often considered to be the strongest go-to-market distribution model, but many young brands find it difficult to attract and manage these types of distributors.

“Beverages always encounter two ‘bottlenecks’ on the path to commercial success – distribution and retail placement. We have the relationships and experience to avoid these obstacles and invest resources properly to deliver volume,” said McClafferty.

“This is going to be a fun ride,” said Nistico. “Kevin and I are good friends and we compliment each other professionally. The beverage field has needed something like this for some time. We are very excited to make a real and immediate impact.”

SBG will make its formal debut in March 2014 during the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim.