The PPAI Expo 2017 Roundup

Near-Record Attendance, Awards, Thought Leadership, Industry Branding

 The World’s Largest Promotional Products Trade Show Connects The Promotional Products Industry Like No Other

IRVING, Texas (January 31, 2017) – Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) concluded The PPAI Expo 2017 with near-record attendance and participation. The world’s largest promotional products trade show, held January 8-12, attracted a total of 12,267 distributor personnel, the show’s largest attendance since 2008, from 4,065 companies together for the five-day event in Las Vegas, Nevada. The PPAI Expo featured more than 140 education and networking events and 1,251 exhibiting supplier companies in 3,144 booths, including 157 first-time exhibitors, presenting hundreds of thousands of promotional products while occupying more than one million square feet of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. With more than 19,688* participants from the U.S. and 31 countries, the overall economic impact of direct visitor spending during The PPAI Expo 2017 is estimated at $18.4 million by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Next year’s show will return January 14-18, 2018 to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

“The PPAI Expo 2017 was a resounding success and exceeded expectations,” said Paul Bellantone, CAE, PPAI president and CEO. “The PPAI Expo marked near-record attendance, and now serves as the launch pad for the year where industry professionals connect, learn, discover and build lifelong partnerships. As Expo has grown, so too have the magnitude and focus of the show. It is the forum where Association executives, industry leaders and professionals meet to guide the industry forward on key initiatives, branding and strategic partnerships to promote, protect and grow this great industry.”

The PPAI Expo was host to the industry’s largest suppliers in addition to more than 157 first-time exhibitors. It showcased thousands of new and exciting products providing industry stakeholders a clear vision and direction for the year and what’s to come in product design, decoration and technology innovations and product knowledge. The Sneak Peek of the Product Pavilions, the rolling opening, the Expo Live stage, and the streamlined end-to-end 360-degree show merchandising floor design showcased exhibitor merchandise and encouraged attendees to experience the entire show. To further enhance distributor-supplier engagement, PPAI adopted EventBitTM technology to allow it to customise show engagement and create unique and personalised attendee experiences as part of its plan to elevate Expo from great to extraordinary. In addition, through SAGE Mobile, attendees were able to view complete event schedules, create walk lists, navigate the show floor using an interactive floor plan and take notes, pictures, videos and voice memos, all from their handheld mobile devices.

“The 2017 Expo had a great buzz to it,” said outgoing PPAI Board Chair Tom Goos, MAS, president of distributor Image Source, Inc. “There were crowded halls and engaged suppliers and distributors. I know when I have a hard time working through the crowds that it is going to be a successful show. I stopped by dozens of booths to check in on how Expo was going for them and I heard nothing but positive reactions. The PPAI Expo is the event all industry professionals attend, and the conversations that are shared are invaluable.”

“Best show ever,” said incoming PPAI Board Chair Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, founder of distributor Competitive Edge, LLC. “I was proud to walk the show floor and hear ‘great show’ from literally everyone I spoke to. Exhibitors were thrilled at the level of engagement they had with distributors, and distributors were pleased with both the quality of the show and the networking. On the final show day, Paul and I met a woman who had back surgery three weeks prior and she exclaimed, ‘This is my show!’ She said that nothing could keep her from attending Expo.”

Many of the promotional products, awards, incentives and branded merchandise unveiled at The PPAI Expo will be used in promotions and campaigns targeting brand enthusiasts, consumers, award winners, employees, trade-show attendees and sports fans around the world this year by companies and organizations of all sizes and industries—from the Fortune 500 and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to the neighborhood dentist, bank and Little League team.

Association Accomplishments

PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, delivered the Association Update reflecting on the successes and opportunities facing the industry. He presented highlights of the Association’s new strategic plan to transform PPAI’s focus from transactional to relationship-based engagement with the membership and to take Expo from great to extraordinary.

PPAI 2016-2017 Board Chair Tom Goos, MAS, president of Kirkland, Washington-based distributor Image Source, took a look back at some of the brightest moments of 2016. He remarked on the Association’s accomplishments including a new PPAI Expo floorplan, a powerful education investment at Expo East, international outreach on behalf of the Association and the industry, developing the Association’s new strategic plan, legislative advocacy, fostering leadership within the industry and the launch of the Get In Touch!TM branding initiative. He also thanked and recognised PPAI’s dedicated industry volunteers and PPAI Fellows, a new program acknowledging influential individuals who have actively supported the industry through their personal involvement.

2017-2018 PPAI Chair Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS, founder of Stevensville, Michigan-based distributor Competitive Edge, spoke about the Association’s accomplishments, growth and her vision for the future focusing on the success of the industry and PPAI’s membership by delivering on the new strategic plan’s mission and its alignment with the Get In Touch! campaign.

EXPO Live | Get In Touch! Campaign Takes the Stage

The EXPO Live Get In Touch! branded interactive stage featured a 12-foot by 21-foot screen, live product demonstrations and interviews with notable Expo speakers, award winners and industry leaders alike. As part of the Association’s industry branding initiative, the Expo featured, show signage, booth drops and a custom Get In Touch! USB drive, thanks to Hirsch Gift, which created touchpoints for the industry’s first-of-its-kind branding campaign. Through Get In Touch!, promotional products are shown to reach unique people and establish a memorable, sensory connection that traditional advertising cannot. Get In Touch! builds the narrative that promotional products work their ways into the lives of all kinds of people and are often invited along on their life journey—wherever they take them.

Thought Leadership

The Opening General Session, sponsored by Promo Marketing, featured keynote speaker and entrepreneur Johnny Earle, founder of Johnny Cupcakes, a multimillion-dollar highly exclusive t-shirt brand. Earle shared how his success reinforces the power of details, experience and loyalty. His inspiring story included comprehensive blueprints for getting a small business, passion or idea off the ground and expanding the way creators think. Monday’s General Session, Power Keynote Preview, sponsored by RiteLine, presented three world-class thought-leaders, Speak Your Truth, Inc.’s Colette Carlson, Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis and sales expert Ryan Estis. Luncheon Keynotes, sponsored by Fundbox, featured The Visibility Coach David Avrin, and a conversation with industry influencers, Mark Graham, co-founder of commonsku, founder and CEO of RIGHTSLEEVE and PromoKitchen Chef, and alphabroder CEO Norm Hullinger, CAS, for a look inside the industry’s first billion-dollar company.


The PPAI awards ceremonies, sponsored by R.S. Owens & Co., a division of St. Regis Crystal, Etching Industries, Visions/Awardcraft, J Charles and Crystal D, honored many industry luminaries, including Hall of Fame inductees Margie Price, MAS, president and owner of St. Louis-based distributor Premiums Plus, Inc., and Joel Schaffer, MAS, owner of Indian Land, South Carolina-based supplier Soundline, LLC; Distinguished Service Award recipient Joe Scott, vice president of Chanhassen, Minnesota-based distributor Scott & Associates, Inc.; H. Ted Olson Humanitarian, H. Wayne Roberts, MAS, retired vice president of Wichita, Kansas-based Pioneer Balloon and past chair of the PPAI Board of Directors; and the PPAI Promotional Products Pioneers. PPAI also recognised the exemplary work of dozens of industry companies with its Pyramid, Supplier Achievement, Image, Supplier Star and Technology awards.

Under The Tent

The PPAI Expo is known as the ‘big tent’ event for the industry, a gathering of like-minded peers, thought leaders and affiliates, some for the first time. This year the The PPAI Expo was host to the SAGE Conference, iPROMOTEu’s A Woman’s View, commonsku’s skucon and PromoKitchen workshops, and grew to include national sales groups FullyPromoted, Inc. (formerly EmbroidMe) and American Solutions for Business, along with AIMastermind, Jack Nadel International, iPROMOTEu, HALO Branded Solutions, Proforma, AIA Corporation and Geiger.

Charitable Giving

The PPAI Expo attendees supported the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF) through participation in the PPEF Glen Holt Scholarship Golf Invitational, sponsored by HALO Branded Solutions, Grapevine Designs, The Magnet Group, John Michael Associates, Target Marketing Group, Essent Corporation and Facilis Group; Branch Out & Give donation tree and auction. Net proceeds of more than $50,000 will go to the industry’s college scholarship program. Expo exhibitors also donated nearly $31,000 worth of samples and promotional products to the Kids In Need Foundation. Since 2008, exhibitors have donated a total of more than $320,000 to this organization, which supplies educators with necessary classroom supplies and student incentives for schools in lower-income areas.

View | The PPAI Expo 2017 Highlight Reel

The PPAI Expo

The world’s largest promotional products trade show is a great place to see the hottest trends in advertising, incentives, recognition and awards, as well as new, green, and made in the USA promotional products, and all under one roof. In 2017, The PPAI Expo brought 12,267 promotional professionals from 4,065 companies together under one roof for the five-day event. The PPAI Expo featured more than 1,251 promotional products exhibitors presenting hundreds of thousands of promotional products while occupying more than one million square feet of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. With more than 19,688 participants from the U.S. and 31 countries, the overall economic impact of direct visitor spending during The PPAI Expo 2017 is estimated at $18.4 million by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

About PPAI

Founded in 1903, the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) is the world’s largest and oldest not-for-profit association serving more than 14,300 corporate members of the $20.8 billion promotional products industry which is comprised of more than 33,700 businesses and a workforce of more than 500,000 professionals. PPAI represents the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocates on its behalf. PPAI operates The PPAI Expo, the industry’s largest trade show; provides the leading promotional products safety and compliance program, a prestigious professional development and certification program; and publishes industry trade journals and periodicals. The multi-billion-dollar industry includes wearables, writing instruments, calendars, drinkware and many other items, usually imprinted with a company’s name, logo or message. For more information, visit and find us on Twitter @PPAI_HQ, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest.

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