Tim Jones’ (04) passion and ability to be creative in marketing rarely results in him staying in one place for too long.
Jones is the creative director for Cornett, a marketing agency in Lexington. Jones and his agency have worked with clients ranging from national brands like Valvoline and A&W Restaurants to local and regional clients like Keeneland race track in Lexington, VisitLex.com and Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. Jones and his wife, Jessica Johnson-Jones (05), also co-founded Gent’s Original Ginger Ale, a craft soda company based in Lexington. Between these two jobs alone, he may be filming a cooking show for Buffalo Trace or traveling to a cocktail competition in Los Angeles.
“There’s a whole lot going on right now,” Jones said.
That doesn’t even include the whole being-on-a-nationally-broadcast-television show part. This year, Jones was on screen helping revitalize the business of struggling distilleries across the South in the non-scripted reality television show “Moonshiners: Whiskey Business” on Discovery.
The Olive Hill native first came to Morehead State in 1997 in large part with some guidance from his sister Shellie Hallock (92), project director of student support services at MSU. However, Jones dropped out of MSU after two years and moved to Florida. He had contemplated working for a national park but decided to return to the University to get a degree.
What kind of degree? At first, he wasn’t quite sure. He took a couple of science and art classes and found himself veering toward working in computers and graphic design thanks to courses with art professors like Gary Mesa-Gaido and the late Deeno Golding.
“I felt like I was actually learning something and learning a trait that I didn’t necessarily have, and I got excited about learning again,” he said. “I thought this was something I could really dive into.”
From there, Jones wanted to learn even more. He explored photography and videography to enhance his creative skill set and put those skills to good use in several campus 24-hour film competitions. He also helped start a student club for graphic designers.
“It all just started clicking,” Jones said. “It was just a really exciting time for me to find something I thought I could really actually do.”
Jones graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Art with an emphasis in graphic design in 2004. He went on to apply what he learned for multiple companies, first as a designer and photographer for Triton Boats in Nashville before coming back to Kentucky to work as an art/creative director for small marketing teams at Elevation Creative Studios, Midway University and The Bourbon Review magazine.
Jones was hired at Cornett in 2011 as a senior art director before becoming the company’s creative director. His success in helping grow the many bourbon brands of the Sazerac Company, which includes Buffalo Trace and Pappy Van Winkle, combined with the booming business of bourbon, led to him being contacted by the production company behind the television show “Moonshiners” on Discovery. They pitched him a spin-off program that would focus on the bourbon industry.
“At first, I was like, this is kind of strange,” he said. “They ran the concept by me, and I actually thought I was pretty suited for this and they did too.”
“Moonshiners: Whiskey Business,” shot five total episodes (four of which featured Jones) from October 2018 to February 2019 before debuting in March. The show had an average viewership of one million viewers per episode. Jones said those ratings could lead to future episodes, which Jones is happy with both for the unique television opportunity and for the results of the work they do.
“Basically, (Discovery) said, ‘Be yourself. All three of you guys (cast members Tim Smith from “Moonshiners” and engineer Devin Mills) are here to help and we want you to identify the real concerns and we want you to help,’ and we did,” Jones said. “I was happy with what we did in real life even more than the episodes.”
The way Jones uses his talents and experience to help distillers and other brands is the same way he occasionally does at his alma mater. He said he makes it a point to make the trip to MSU every year or two to talk to senior capstone classes and pass on what he’s learned. He believes MSU was the place where he developed his passion and potential.
“One thing I got out of college for sure was discovery. I discovered so many things I didn’t know,” he said. “It doesn’t happen to everybody, but I’m really happy that something clicked. It hasn’t stopped since.”