Moving the World, from the Board Room to the Super Bowl
It’s the most recognizable of big names, arguably even more so than his previous employers: American Express, PepsiCo and possibly even The White House.
Alfred F. Kelly Jr. ’80, ’81MBA is president and CEO of the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee, and he hasn’t been surprised that many people are asking him for tickets to the big game, to be held Sunday, February 2, 2014, at MetLife Stadium, home to both the Giants and the Jets, in New Jersey. But they're likely to be disappointed.
“I don’t have very much to do with the actual game itself,” Kelly said in a recent interview. “The Super Bowl is a weeklong set of activities, and most of the economic value and also the complications are in the Monday to Saturday events.”
"When a city or region is awarded a Super Bowl they’re required to put an entity together, called a host committee, to facilitate all that’s necessary for the game and week of activities to be as smooth as they can possibly be," Kelly explains. "We’re an independent company. Our job is multi-faceted. It’s to raise the funds necessary to put the game on, and to make sure the region garners the maximum benefit it can from having this great platform that the Super Bowl is. We’re there to facilitate anything the NFL needs to fulfill their obligations."
Also, he added, "We’re their primary interface with state governments, and the mayor's office in New York City, to make sure that whatever services or logistical elements are required are taken care of."
In answer to anyone who points to Mitt Romney’s chairmanship of the International Olympic Committee, followed by an entry into politics, Kelly is emphatic: “No.” He views the Super Bowl Host Committee as a business, not a political endeavor, despite spending time in the Reagan White House as Head of Information Systems.
"It’s very different than other stops along my career. I am enjoying it," Kelly said. "I think the biggest thing is that it’s a small business. I’ve only worked in three other businesses and they were all large corporations."
The Super Bowl Host Committee, he says, has just 30 full-time employees and about 12 part-timers. But when you factor in the number of volunteers his organization needs to manage for the pregame week, about 10,000 or so, it starts to seem a little bigger.
“We have to put a volunteer corps together, which will land at about 10,000 or so. That is one of the largest of any Super Bowl, due to the complications of the area and the range of the geographic footprint,” Kelly said. Volunteers will greet visitors at the airports and hotels, and on street corners, around the New York/New Jersey area, to provide information and make sure they have a good time.
Kelly's task, when he began in April 2011, was building the host committee from scratch. "Everything from finding real estate to mobile development, to hiring people," he explains. "I believe small businesses are the engine of the economy, so it’s been fun and exciting to be a small business CEO and see how it works and the challenges. There are other challenges in large corporations, but the basic plumbing of the companies
is there for you.”
“This is a Super Bowl of firsts,” Kelly said. “It’s the first time the Super Bowl has been hosted by two states, the first hosted by two teams of the NFL, the Jets and the Giants. It’s also the first time it’s been hosted in the Northeast, and in a northern locale, in cold weather, in a stadium without a dome.”
In addition to the knowledge base and initial work experience he gained at Iona, Kelly says he credits his success to his drive to learn new things every day.
“Successful people tend to be incredibly curious, and if you’re an avid learner, you’re going to ever-increasingly advance your skill set and experience base,” he said.
What will Al Kelly do next, when the host committee finishes its work, about three months after the Super Bowl?
“I’m busy enough that I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” he said. “I think whatever I do next will be the capstone of the main first chapter of my professional life.”
This story appeared in the fall issue of the Iona Magazine – see more from the magazine.