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Charlotte FC's new president aims to build on fans' commitment
Nick Kelly's task is to build, cement ties
 
Published Wednesday, December 16, 2020
by Ashley Mahoney

ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV
Nick Kelly, who was named Charlotte FC president Tuesday, brings extensive business and sports marketing experience to his new job.

Nick Kelly has a 15-month runway to build the business side of Charlotte FC.

The 30th Major League Soccer franchise announced Kelly as their inaugural club president Tuesday, with his start date Feb. 1. He will report to Tom Glick, president of the club’s parent company Tepper Sports and Entertainment, while complementing Charlotte FC Sporting Director Zoran Krneta, who will oversee the soccer side.

Kelly’s first order of is to convert their season ticket deposits into commitments to seats. They currently have 10,000 season ticket deposits for 31,000 seats.

“Day one is going to be converting a lot of those people who have already made that commitment to be a part of the team to step up,” Kelly said. 

His second priority is helping the business community understand the role of the club in the community.

“We are not the (Carolina) Panthers,” Kelly said. “We are not the Hornets [NBA]. We are not the (Charlottte) Knights. What we are going to be is different. That’s our goal—to tell our story across the business community.”

Kelly spent the last six years with Anheuser-Busch InBev, most recently as vice president partnerships, beer culture and community. His work included building sponsorship agreements between Anheuser-Busch InBev and MLS clubs, FIFA World Cup, International Champions Cup, Copa America and the Olympics. Budweiser partnered with the National Women’s Soccer League under Kelly in 2019, becoming among the first corporations to do so.

“All of it was a very important part of our evaluation and how he could excel and lead our club in the right way,” Glick said.

Kelly is also familiar with the Charlotte area, spending 2011-14 with NASCAR, but the market looks vastly different in 2020. Yet his familiarity with the region was a plus during his consideration for the position.

“Nick knows our city and he knows our region,” Glick said. “He lived here in Charlotte. He understands everything that is great about North and South Carolina, our wonderful region and territory, and about the city of Charlotte. We don’t have to teach him that. He knows everything about it, and he knows what an exciting future we have. We want our new soccer club to be right in the heart of that.”

Kelly’s previous soccer experience in Charlotte includes attending the city’s inaugural International Champions Cup match at Bank of America Stadium. English Premier League side Liverpool faced Italian Serie A club A.C. Milan in front of 69,364 fans.

“There was almost a full stadium for an international match,” Kelly said. “For everybody to show up for something like that, it was one of the first years of the ICC in general. I think that kind of proved to me from a big market, big picture standpoint that there was no community tie to either one of those teams, they just love soccer. That is probably my first impression from a live event here.”

Kelly’s return in a new role demands that he spends time in the community.

“My No. 1 job is to be visible,” he said. “I want to be at the academy games in east Charlotte [where the future academy headquarters will be located]. I want to be in communities that are doing their own activations as it relates to soccer because this isn’t the first time that there has been soccer activations in Charlotte. I want to be ingrained in the soccer community across the state, and most specifically in Charlotte. That’s a big job. There’s a lot going on here.”

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