This interview is presented to you by the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration
By: Richalyn Miller, @RLMiller4_92
Front Office Sports is pleased to have sat down with Roly Nesi, CEO of ROAR Beverages, a new breed of electrolyte infused sports drink that caters to the next generation of sports drink consumers. Growing up in Long Island, Nesi was involved in sports starting at a young age, he played hockey and lacrosse and has always been a professional football fan. Seeing the transition of today’s youth culture, he realized the next generation of consumers demands more, actively seeking products that reflects their lifestyle, ROAR represents a brand that provides results without sacrificing one’s individuality.
Working in the beverage industry for almost a decade, Nesi’s early career focused on the Asian market, helping American brands build their companies in Asia. Spending a lot of time between Hong Kong and New York, he gained much experience on building beverage brands in an untapped marketplace including distributor management, key account development and coordinating local production locations within foreign countries. With the experience, he saw a hole in the sports drink category with today’s youth in mind, a product that combines the expressive aspect of an energy drink with the functionality of a healthier sports drink. His new vision was about to become a reality as he embarked on bringing his idea to the states.
As a longtime Gatorade drinker, Nesi felt sports drinks were stuck in the past and there was room to innovate. He wanted to create a sports drink that would rise above the clutter. One that was healthier, better tasting, and catering to all lifestyles. And so, Nesi introduced his own refreshing, healthy, coconut water based sports drink ROAR to the market in 2014.
Nesi explained, “Monster and Rockstar carved out their niche as being young, loud, and fun. The flavors are different and the packaging is more edgy and aggressive. We figured that lifestyle needed to transfer to a drink that was healthier, authentic and trusted.”
Nesi explains that ROAR’s mission wasn’t just to create a, “better Gatorade.” But, it was to create a drink that is always refreshing, not afraid to stand out and a go-to drink for professional and everyday athletes. ROAR’s portfolio of unique flavors is constantly evolving, and with its loud in your face packaging it is very unique and creative when it comes to sports drink category. ROAR recently introduced its ninth flavor, Cosmic Grape, with packaging that was geared to align with the latest urban fashion trends.
“We’ve really wanted to push the boundaries like with our Cosmic Grape flavor; it’s wrapped in full galaxy print -- it’s something new and thrilling, and everything we’re doing is counter-cultured with what people are used to seeing. It’s awesome to see it really resonating with our customers and target demographic, which are young athletes.”
For ROAR, to have a partnership meant having someone that could really fit their brand’s unique style and could impact their core demographic. Who better than New York Giants’ Wide Receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.? He brought a new flair to the National Football League with his crazy hair, smooth dance moves, and great attitude. His on and off the field personality transcending him into a cultural social media influencer and was the perfect fit for ROAR and what they stand for.
“Everybody wanted to get Odell to endorse their product, and he chose ROAR because he loved the style, the individuality, and also the taste. It was a very organic endorsement and partnership."
There wasn’t any hesitation for Nesi when creating ROAR because he knew a healthier and more refreshing sports drink was necessary and would influence a change in the market.
“For us, it was less about hesitation and more about how quickly we could get this on the market. We really put the pressure on ourselves because we really wanted to showcase our originality with the product.”
Nesi admits that the business is very competitive, and the odds of succeeding in the beverage industry aren’t that high. For companies like ROAR, there’s always competition with the better known brand, however, ROAR being the healthier option, has serious potential to compete with his competitors.
“You really have to be confident in your product and your ability. When you’re going up against bigger brands, they have the money and the resources to back up their products. Even with Odell representing ROAR, bigger brands may sometimes make it hard for you. We have a great product, and we’re confident once someone tries our product, they’ll want to try it again.”
“You really have to be persistent and take what you can get. Whether it’s one or two flavors, it’s important to get your product on the shelf and get it to the customers. Of course in the beginning, there’s a lot of resistance, but that’s just part of the business, and we knew that going in.”
For most people, challenges are unwanted, but Nesi embraces them.
“I love the challenge on a daily basis—no two days are the same. The growth has become so explosive for us. We’re presented with very unique opportunities and really getting to explore different avenues. Promoting the product is exciting. Every day, we’re tasting new flavors, looking at new packaging, and, now, athletes and personalities are coming to us about our product. It makes it very surreal for us.”
“The challenges are good because they allow you to grow as your business. One thing we pride ourselves on is evolution, and we’re always looking to keep progressing forward.”
Nesi says it’s important to be confident that this is the industry you want to work in. Especially with ROAR, the challenges of driving a new product that aims to fit athletes’ lifestyles requires confidence and hard work.
“A lot of products that come out are from people who see that drinks are selling, but you really have to have a niche and have a great product. It’s not just a decision you make on Sunday night and then Monday morning you working to it come to life. You have to be willing to work and work hard.”