Smart, who played 278 games for the Crows between 1991 and 2004, has acted as chairman Rob Chapman's deputy since 2009.
The 43-year-old's new position will help ease the workload on CEO Steven Trigg, who is currently serving a suspension as punishment for his role in the Kurt Tippett salary cap scandal.
Smart will be a link between sales, events, marketing and communications, merchandise, community projects and membership, and will report to Trigg.
Chapman described Smart's credentials as "irresistible".
"Nigel Smart is highly accomplished and brings to our club an irresistible blend of achievement as a manager, businessman and footballer,” Chapman said.
“Nigel knows business and he knows football. He has a record of success both inside and outside the Adelaide Football Club as a leader of people and builder of businesses. We chose him in an exacting national selection process from a first-class field of candidates.”
Smart was "excited" to return to the club that helped him become a three-time All Australian.
“I look forward to continuing to do all that I can to contribute to the success of our great club,” Smart said.
“The Crows and its people – players, staff and supporters – have been at the centre of my life for the greater part of it. I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to return here as a leader of a terrific group of people, many of whom I have grown up with and admire tremendously.”
Since retiring from a decorated football career in 2004, Smart has earned a reputation as a noted businessman in South Australia and holds an MBA from the University of Adelaide’s Graduate School of Business and is a Bachelor of Arts from the Flinders University.
He has served as marketing manager of the Jobs Statewide Group, national business development manager of Disability Works Australia, network development manager SA/NT for the Toyota Motor Corporation and sales, sponsorship manager SA/NT for Lion Nathan Australia and most recently as CEO of Variety The Children’s Charity.
Harry Thring is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Harry.