They’re rivals on basketball’s biggest stage. But when it comes to tequila, they’re friends.
Cincoro, the label created by five National Basketball Association team owners, including Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, on Wednesday announced a new blend of its award-winning tequila. Cincoro Gold, geared toward the luxury market, will be available in limited quantities come October and sell for $349.99 a bottle. It’s Cincoro’s fifth blend.
Jordan himself is promising no less than “the world’s finest tequila” – strong words from the man often referred to as the world’s greatest basketball player.
“While the tequila space may be crowded, we are fierce competitors and our portfolio reflects our passion and commitment to produce truly delicious and exceptional expressions,” the Charlotte Hornets owner told CNBC.
He’s joined in the venture by Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeannie Buss, Wes Edens of the Milwaukee Bucks ownership group, and Wyc Grousbeck and Emilia Fazzalari of the Boston Celtics. It started to come together in 2016, When Jordan, Buss, Edens, Fazzalari and Grousbeck had dinner plans in New York City ahead of NBA meetings. While waiting for their table, the owners discovered they had more than just basketball in common. They also shared a love of tequila.
“It was the first time the five of us had ever gotten together for dinner and something really special happened that night as we bonded as friends who are arch rivals,” Fazzalari said. “We started talking about how much we all love tequila and we realized we had this shared passion.”
Their discussions evolved and they saw an opening in the market. Fazzalari said they made over 1,000 tequilas before finally landing on their taste profile. The meetings and tastings would often be scheduled around NBA board meetings.
“Michael, in particular, he taught us how to drink tequila. He taught us how to sip tequila,” she said. “He taught us he likes to drink it either neat or with one large rock and always a slice of orange and you know it was all about chilling and enjoying the moment.”
In just three years, according to Cincoro, the label has sold 1.5 million bottles nationally and won 23 awards in accredited spirit competitions. Fazzalari said the tequila is in every major hotel chain, leading restaurant groups and many independent liquor stores across the country.
“Our strategy is to grow our distribution in the United States and then look abroad,” she added.
While brands like Cuervo, Patron, Don Julio and George Clooney’s Casamigos control majority of the market, IWSR Drinks market research data shows that Cincoro is a top-20 brand in terms of retail value contribution to the tequila category.
“The top 10 tequila brands in the U.S. make up nearly 70% of the category value, so it’s very concentrated. The remaining 30% is allocated across dozens of smaller brands, one of which is Cincoro,” said Brandy Rand, IWSR’s Chief Strategy Officer.
Cincoro said it strives to differentiate its product through unique flavors and its aging process. They begin with the harvesting of agave plants that are at least seven years of age in Jalisco, Mexico. The agave is slow cooked and fermented for six days and then it is aged in whiskey barrels. Its latest product, Cincoro Gold blends all of the previous expressions together to create a richer flavor. Fazzalari describes it as “reminiscent of a finely aged scotch or cognac.”
So far, Cincoro is proving to be a good investment for the owners, as the spirit has become more popular. Tequila is one of the fastest-growing spirits categories in the U.S., according to IWSR.
Last year, total volume grew by almost 17% and value grew by more than 27%. Super premium-and-above tequila category – brands in the $30+ price band – are experiencing even larger growth, with volume growing by 36.5% last year and by almost 40% in value. By the end of next year, tequila is poised to become the largest spirits category in the U.S. in terms of value.
Jordan and his friends may be on to something. Tequila brands with celebrity connections have seen rapid success. According to IWSR, celebrity tequilas surged at a compound annual growth rate of over 50% between 2016 and 2021, bringing $1.9 billion in global revenues during 2021 alone. From Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to Nick Jonas to Lebron James, having a tequila brand is a hot commodity.
In 2013, Clooney launched Casamigos. It began as a blend shared by his family and friends, and it turned into an instant hit. In 2017, Clooney sold Casamigos to Diageo for $1 billion. Today, it’s the no. 3 tequila brand by market share in terms of both value and volume.
“Celebrity participation adds sophistication to the category and celebrities organically expand the base of demand for tequila by attracting a global and diverse group of followers and fans,” Rand said.