El Bandido Yankee tequila has done the seemingly impossible in just a few short years. It has broken out of a crowded tequila field filled with splashy celebrity brands to become a significant player in one of the hottest spirits category’s these days, tequila. This feat was accomplished by building the brand around America’s thriving professional sports landscape with multiple partnerships and leveraging its founder’s strengths from the get-go.
Launched in the summer of 2021 by former NFL player Jim Bob Morris and NHL Hall of Famer Chris Chelios, the foray into the sports world makes sense. Based in Chicago, the company was able to tap into the midwestern market from the get-go due to Chelios’s history in the region-he spent large parts of his career on the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. But the two men also had bigger plans for their brand, and to attract drinkers, they would need to look outside hockey and play to win.
“We entered the market with a gusto like everything else we have ever done,” says Morris. “We don’t know how to do things any other way. Both Chris and I are driven to succeed. When we decided to launch our company, we both knew that by focusing on the sports world, we would be able to instantly connect with consumers and get our product into tons of hands immediately. Everyone at a sporting event wants to have fun, and we can help them do that.”
A serial entrepreneur Morris dove headlong into the business world after leaving the NFL in 1987. He quickly found success and today oversees a wide variety of business enterprises ranging from Morris Packaging to the sports betting platform Wanna.com. When the two friends, after a night out, came up with the idea for El Bandido Yankee, named after a line in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, they looked for a distiller that would produce a superior liquid they could put their names behind.
They found what they were looking for at El Viejito Distillery in the heart of Jalisco, Mexico. Using fully mature blue weber agave, their tequila is handcrafted using traditional centuries-old methods by Master Distiller Karina Rojo. The resulting liquid has zero additives and reflects the brand’s focus on producing ultra-premium tequila at an affordable price. Their Blanco retails for $39.99, and their Reposado at $44.99.
“Much to my accountant’s chagrin, this has been a fully self-funded endeavor from day one. As the primary investor, I knew we needed to ensure our bottles hit the sweet spot in terms of pricing and quality. I am a big fan of Steven Covey. I have always believed in starting any business with the end in mind and engineering it backward to achieve the results we want,” says Morris. “There are so many high-priced bottles filled with good tequila showing up these days that I believe paint themselves into a corner. If we were to make a splash in the sports world, our tequila must be affordable to most people.”
El Bandido Yankee’s reach into the sporting world might be unprecedented for any company, not just an alcohol brand, to have achieved so quickly. They have partnered with college football’s Hula Bowl, with the NHL, NBA, NFL, and MLB teams, and the UFC. Just outside the stadium at Super Bowl XVII, they were pouring drinks and up the road at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, a PGA Tour event.
They have also turned their focus to the world of motorsports. After first dipping their toes into the NHRA, they have made a big move into NASCAR by being named the official tequila of the Phoenix Raceway. They have their eyes on more venues and events in the near future.
“We are here to disrupt the market. That’s what we are aiming to do every day. The racing world is ripe for a brand like ours. We were made for people that go to the track,” says Morris. “We are the official tequila of race day and will be moving forward. We came to win and won’t settle for not doing that. It’s why we are so attracted to racing; it’s a winner take all environment that will only help us grow our tequila and the other products we will have come out soon.”
As El Bandido Yankee continues its torrid run, consumers can expect to see it more and more. For a brand with the tagline “So Smooth It’s Criminal,” they should expect nothing less.