Economics and history alumnus finds sports marketing a perfect fit

Author: Carrie Gates

Matt Ardell ’10

Matt Ardell ’10 grew up dreaming of working for Nike.

Now, five years after graduating from Notre Dame with a degree in economics and history, he is living his dream at Nike’s corporate headquarters in his hometown of Portland, Oregon.

As a football marketing field rep, Ardell travels the country building relationships with head coaches, athletic directors, and teams. The foundation for his success in the business world, he said, is his liberal arts education.

“I chose Arts and Letters specifically because you can do anything you want with that degree,” he said. “The strategies you learn—critical thinking and different ways to look at a problem—are useful no matter where you go.”

A Different Lens

Ardell has relied on his economics and econometrics background to help him step back and “look at numbers differently”—both in his first position at Nike as a financial analyst and in his current marketing position.

“We often receive analytical reports pertaining to various parts of the business,” he said. “And I feel like I can look at the data more critically and say, ‘This number doesn’t always mean what it seems—there could be a number of other factors leading to it.’ I think my economics degree helps with that.”

He traces that skill directly to an econometrics class he took with William Evans, the Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Economics and chair of the department.

“It was a class that challenged everyone,” Ardell said. “It taught us how to run regression models and determine relationships between variables.”

A New Challenge

Ardell also credits his history major with helping him gain valuable communication and project management skills—especially during his senior thesis project on Alexander the Great.

“The real value of it was in developing my writing skills—just being confident that I can communicate clearly and concisely in the reports I send to people at Nike,” he said.

His communication skills also help him build relationships with his clients at the college campuses he visits.

“We’re constantly developing new products that I need to be an expert on, in order to better communicate to our teams and athletes,” Ardell said. “I am the main contact for the universities, in terms of understanding their teams’ needs and making sure we get the athletes the best equipment possible.”

A Man of His Word

While at Notre Dame, Ardell was a member of the liturgical choir, various interhall sports teams, and the student volunteer organization Teamwork for Tomorrow, which hosts an afterschool program for local elementary students.

Through all the facets of his education and activities, he said, there was a common theme of developing trust and displaying integrity—lessons that serve him well today.

“It’s essential in my job that I don’t over-promise and under-deliver,” Ardell said. “Being honest and following through on what I say helps me build trust in these relationships.”

That hallmark of his education is what makes the University such a special place, he added.

“At Notre Dame, it’s about educating the whole person,” he said. “It’s about being trustworthy and being a person of your word. That is extremely important, and it’s something I really value.”

Originally published by Carrie Gates at on February 23, 2016.