PPAI Expo 2017 Reports Highest Attendance In Nine Years


Attendees stream in on Expo's opening day.

Verified attendance numbers are in and PPAI is reporting that The PPAI Expo, which wrapped up in Las Vegas on January 12 after a spectacular five-day run, attracted a total of 12,267 distributor personnel, the show’s largest attendance since 2008.

Featuring 1,251 exhibiting supplier companies in 3,144 booths, including 157 first-time exhibitors, the Expo showcased thousands of new and exciting products, education and events in one million square feet at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The show’s overall economic impact to the City of Las Vegas is estimated at $18.4 million by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“The PPAI Expo 2017 was a resounding success and exceeded expectations,” says 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 life-long partnerships. As the Expo has grown, so too has 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.”

This year’s show, which drew a total of more than 19,688 participants from across the U.S. and 31 countries, is the official kick off for the promotional products industry and often sets the tone for the business year ahead.

“The 2017 Expo had a great buzz to it,” says 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.”


Keynote speaker Johnny Earle, founder of Johnny Cupcakes, shared his inspiring story and key strategies at the Expo's Opening General Session.


The Sneak Peek, product pavilions, the rolling show 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 customize show engagement and create unique and personalized 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, keep up with show news and take notes, pictures, videos and voice memos, all from their handheld mobile devices.

“Best show ever!” says 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.”

Over the five-day event, PPAI leaders Bellantone, Goos and Tomasini addressed the membership numerous times to share the successes and opportunities facing the industry and to present a number of new initiatives including highlights of PPAI’s new consumer research; Generation Y outreach; new industry branding campaign, Get In Touch!TM; legislative advocacy; new strategic plan to transform PPAI’s membership focus from transactional to relationship-based engagement and its plans to take the Expo from great to extraordinary.


The Chairman's Leadership Dinner honorees—here joined by PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE (left), and Board Chair Tom Goos, MAS (right)—included PPAI’s 2017 Hall of Fame inductees Margie Price, MAS (center right) and Joel Schaffer, MAS (second from right); Distinguished Service Award winner Joe Scott (second from left) and its H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award winner H. Wayne Roberts, MAS.

Throughout the week, more than 140 professional development and networking sessions were available to attendees with more than 14,072 seats filled during the week. Keynote speaker and entrepreneur Johnny Earle, founder of Johnny Cupcakes, a multimillion-dollar highly exclusive t-shirt brand, took center stage at the Opening General Session with a presentation in which he shared his inspiring story along with ideas for getting a small business off the ground and creating memorable experiences for customers.

On Education Day, three world-class thought leaders, Speak Your Truth, Inc.’s Colette Carlson, Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis and sales expert Ryan Estis presented brief intros and invited attendees to break-out sessions for a full presentation. Two luncheon keynotes featured The Visibility Coach David Avrin, and a fireside chat with Mark Graham, co-founder of commonsku, founder and CEO of RIGHTSLEEVE and PromoKitchen Chef, who interviewed alphabroder CEO Norm Hullinger, CAS, about the industry’s first billion-dollar company.


More than 1,251 exhibiting supplier companies in more than 3,144 booths showcased thousands of new and exciting products filling the show floor at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.


The PPAI Expo was also a time to celebrate exceptional accomplishments in creativity. The centerpiece was the PPAI Chairman’s Leadership Dinner, at which PPAI’s 2017 Hall of Fame inductees were honored. They are 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. In addition, PPAI presented its Distinguished Service Award to Joe Scott, vice president of Chanhassen, Minnesota-based distributor Scott & Associates, Inc. and its H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award to H. Wayne Roberts, MAS, retired vice president of Wichita, Kansas-based Pioneer Balloon and past chair of the PPAI Board of Directors. PPAI also recognized this year’s class of PPAI Pioneers. At the newly designed Block Party, PPAI honored the exemplary work of dozens of industry companies with its Pyramid, Supplier Achievement, Image, Technology and Supplier Star awards.

Long known as the industry’s “big tent,” this year the PPAI Expo was host to the SAGE Conference, iPROMOTEu’s A Woman’s View, commonsku’s skucon and PromoKitchen workshops, and it attracted many national sales groups including Fully Promoted (formerly EmbroidMe) and American Solutions for Business, as well as AIMastermind, Jack Nadel International, iPROMOTEu, HALO Branded Solutions, Proforma, AIA Corporation and Geiger.

This year’s PPAI Expo attendees supported the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF) through participation in the PPEF Glen Holt Scholarship Golf Invitational, Branch Out & Give donation tree and live and online auctions. 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.

Expo-Flip-BookNext year’s show will return to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas on January 14-18, 2018. Click on the cover at the left to view the Expo in pictures and look for more about The PPAI Expo 2017 in PPB’s March issue.

filed under industry-news | january-2017
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