Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, November 26, 2021

In the chips: UT’s Taylor, fans benefit from cookie deal

Alontae Taylor’s arrangement with Moonshine Mountain cookies has become a sweet deal. - Photo by Robin Maddux

As soon as the ball nestled into Alontae Taylor’s arms, Robin and Mike Maddux jumped from their seats inside Neyland Stadium and headed for the exits.

The game wasn’t over, but they knew things were about to get wild.

The co-owners of Moonshine Mountain Cookie Company signed Taylor to a name, image and likeness deal before the football season began.

Any time Taylor intercepts a pass for Tennessee – or picks off a two-point conversion attempt – Moonshine Mountain gives away two free cookies to fans. The amount corresponds to Taylor’s jersey number.

It’s been a sweet partnership for everyone involved.

Given the early kickoff time for Taylor’s thievery against South Carolina, fans would begin lining up at Moonshine Mountain’s two Knoxville locations as soon as the Vols secured the win.

The staff cranked up the six ovens and began baking up a storm to satisfy the rush of customers coming their way.

“It’s just nonstop at both stores any time it happens,” Robin Maddux says. “Everybody is just so excited to get their free cookies and excited about Tennessee football. They are thanking us for doing this deal with Alontae and supporting the players.”

It’s the first year college athletes are allowed to capitalize on their name, image and likeness to earn money.

Many UT players have NIL deals with various businesses, but none has received the amount of attention as Taylor’s deal with Moonshine Mountain. It’s been mentioned on several ESPN broadcasts, and other local and national media outlets have done stories.

“That is advertising we wouldn’t have even thought about getting,” Robin Maddux says. “There is no way we could have paid for that being a small company. It’s definitely been a win-win for him and for us.”

Citizen Agency, the advertising agency that works with Moonshine Mountain, brought the NIL opportunity to the company’s attention once the new NIL legislation was passed.

Robin and Mike Maddux own Moonshine Mountain along with Rick Dunlap. They are all big sports fans and UT graduates. Mike Maddux is a former walk-on football player for the Vols and was a roommate of Dunlap’s at UT.

Taylor entered the season with only two career interceptions and has equaled that total through 10 games.

The senior defensive back from Manchester has been nicknamed “Cookie Monster” since signing the deal. After his first interception of the season against Tennessee Tech, his teammates instantly knew what the payoff would be.

“I got to the sideline and a lot of guys were asking, ‘Do I get free cookies yet?’ Yeah, you do. I was telling those guys about it,” Taylor recalls. “It’s a great experience. The NIL thing is really big. I went down to the one on Kingston Pike and met a lot of fans.

“A lot of people were saying thank you. It’s something small, but it’s also something I want to continue to do.”

Taylor is only required to post about the Moonshine Mountain promotion on his social media accounts (the financial details of the deal haven’t been publicly disclosed). But he’s “gone above and beyond’’ what the company expected.

“He comes into the store every time an event happens and hangs out a couple of hours to talk with customers and take pictures. He’s even helped us carry cookies,” Robin Maddux says. “He has just been awesome to work with.”

Moonshine’s cookies normally retail at $2.70 per cookie. The company doesn’t have any metrics yet to show how the deal has impacted its bottom line, but the owners estimate sales have tripled on days after a Taylor interception, with most customers buying more cookies to take home.

“We are probably helping cover the cost of the cookies we give away. But once you try the cookies, we know you will be coming back,” Robin Maddux adds. “It’s really impacted our customer base in that way.”

The free two-cookie bundle usually contains a Rocky Top cookie, a “creamy, rich chocolate base with a hearty blend of milk chocolate, combined with the wholesome goodness of golden rolled oats,” and Moonshine’s bestseller, the Caramel By The Sea, which has gooey caramel and bits of chocolate toffee brickle glazed by butterscotch Moonshine and coarse sea salt.

Moonshine Mountain doesn’t skimp on ingredients, and their cookies won’t win any beauty pageants for baked goods.

“Other cookies may be prettier and iced and have this look, but they don’t have the taste you get when you bite into one of ours,” Robin Maddux say. “I am not saying ours are necessarily ugly, but they are not ‘wow cookies’ that look all iced and beautiful.

“We just let you taste one and decide from there.”

Meagen Brown was hooked the minute she bit into one. The Spring City resident is a UT graduate and big Vols football fan. Brown was in Knoxville during one of the cookie giveaway days and decided to stop for a sample.

“They were delicious. I got some for my office that day, as well, and then went back two days later to get even more cookies,” adds Brown, who is an agent for UT Extension. “My nephew is a huge UT football fan in Ooltewah, so I took him some Alontae Taylor cookies and he loved them.”

Brown enjoys supporting local businesses and is already pondering ways to incorporate Moonshine Mountain cookies into future events.

“Their promotion has worked for me,” she says. “They have already made money off me.”

Although football season is nearing its end, Moonshine Mountain’s NIL opportunities won’t be one and done. The company wants to extend the partnerships to other sports.

“We love basketball and baseball too. It may go through every season. I don’t really know yet,” Robin Maddux says. “We have to figure something out. But we will definitely do another NIL deal.”