By Aaron Tomich/NPSL.com
Soccer, sasquatch-themed beer and a close-knit community are words that can describe two-year-old Appalachian Football Club and its new community-based campaign.
Rooted in the heart of North Carolina’s High Country in the city of Boone, Appalachian FC has seen immense growth since its founding in 2020 and inaugural NPSL season in 2021. Following the success of its launch, the team managed to reach the Southeast Conference semifinals, capping a special first season.
With that momentum, club co-founder Michael Hitchcock led the way for the next chapter of the young club beginning in January of 2022.
“From my standpoint, it was about taking an incredibly engaged fanbase and turning them into engaged owners,” said Hitchcock, discussing the club’s recent WeFunder campaign, giving the fans and community the opportunity to invest in the team. “I want this ownership to be real and meaningful, and these investors will be and are equity owners in our club.”
Hitchcock’s soccer business expertise is plentiful, as he was a key player in the development of Major League Soccer clubs in their early days, including D.C. United and Colorado Rapids, then serving as the Vice President of Sales for LA Galaxy before being named the General Manager of FC Dallas in 2005.
“I’ve always taken an entrepreneurial approach to soccer and marketing and trying to do anything I can to help grow the game which I love, so I made the decision to leave Major League Soccer and to launch my own sports management company,” said Hitchcock, who founded Playbook Management International in 2009.
Following the shutdown of Appalachian State University’s soccer program due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Hitchcock teamed up with former App State soccer coach Jason O’Keefe to help fill the High Country soccer gap and bring back the game this community loved.
Through his own son’s recruitment to App State, Hitchcock saw the incredible potential for the community of Boone and its passion for the sport of soccer. Bringing his sport management expertise and partnering with a local soccer leader and coach, he added Appalachian FC as another investment. With immense community support, the club launched successfully in 2021.
Now at over 30 sponsor partnerships, many coming from local High Country businesses, the Appalachian FC brand has earned strong footing in the region… or could it be said Big Foot-ing, as sasquatch (the elusive Appalachian creature) is the iconic face of the crest and mascot of the club.
One local brewery, Booneshine Brewing Company, has tapped-in to the fun as a partner with the club, offering a seasonal Squatchy Ale for supporters to enjoy on matchdays and beyond. This example, alongside many other community partnerships, is how Hitchcock explains the business model of supporters and businesses owning stake in the team.
“I think this campaign has created a real sense of community pride that can last forever,” said Hitchcock, after talking about one of the club’s partners’ employees describing their ownership stakes in Appalachian FC, and the impact it has already made.
To date, the campaign has seen over $163,000 in investments from close to 200 individuals hailing from both Boone, NC and elsewhere in the country.
“To see that number of investors, those who love the community and love the club and the sport of soccer overall, that is the real success so far,” said Hitchcock. “It’s not so much about the capital, it’s more so about the people and the community and the opportunities to give high level soccer experience to players, coaches, interns, fans and more.”
For more information on how to buy a share and invest in Appalachian FC, with shares starting at $100, you can visit the club’s WeFunder campaign website at wefunder.com/appalachianfc.
Photo Credit: Appalachian FC