When Cookies by Design introduced Oklahoma City Thunder basketball cookies late in the season, fans thought they were sweet.
Because the company secures the licensing rights to team logos, a somewhat lengthy process, Cookies by Design rolled out its Thunder cookies right before the playoffs began. Despite the late start, Thunder cookies outsold every other NBA team nationwide, said company chief executive Jack Long.
Sales were helped by a large order from Thunder team owner Clay Bennett, who purchased 2,000 cookies to serve to guests in the executive suites during the two Finals home games, Long said. He even bought some Miami Heat cookies for their team's guests.
“It was nice to know that a small-market logo across the country was a top seller,” he said.
Based in Dallas, Cookies by Design started in Oklahoma and founder Gwen Willhite's daughter and granddaughter operate the Tulsa location.
Willhite said she came up with the idea for the company while working a regular desk job and noticing how embarrassed men in her office were receiving a delivery of flowers or balloons. So she crafted a cookie recipe, and — perhaps more importantly — perfected the art of putting her cookies on a stick.
She opened her first store in 1983 in Catoosa, then added a store in Tulsa. Originally the cookies were decorated with candy and the designs were mostly feminine.
“We went back to Gwen's roots and decided to man up a bit,” Long said.
That's where sports licensing came in. Long said Cookies by Design holds licensing for most professional sports teams, including those in the NCAA, NBA, NFL and MLB, adding that it's the only cookie company to “have them all.” Nonsports licenses include Disney, Garfield and Winnie the Pooh.
Licensing fees are paid per cookie, he said. Cookies by Design stores have a machine that prints images with edible ink, so each time a worker makes a Thunder logo, for example, the fee is automatically submitted.