photography by Christine BeDell and Jann Hendry


The promotional products industry needed this.

After not being held in person in 2021 due to the pandemic, The PPAI Expo returned, in the flesh, to Las Vegas and the Mandalay Bay Convention Center,  Jan. 10-13, delivering the networking, education and business opportunities the longest-running and premier promotional products trade show is known for.

Dale Denham, MAS+, PPAI president and CEO, says the event was about the future—about moving forward beyond the challenges COVID-19 brought to the industry.

“It’s a beginning,” Denham said in his remarks on opening day. “This year it’s more important than ever. Two years was too long not to be together and have those collisions—we just have creative ideas being together in person.”

The PPAI Expo 2022 faced the Omicron variant head-on. The promotional products community had made it clear that it was ready to return to Las Vegas, and PPAI ensured it could, in as safe an environment as possible.

PPAI President and CEO Dale Denham, MAS+, kicked off The PPAI Expo by announcing the Association's new mission and vision, as well as two marketplace-shaping announcements they've initiated. Above, right: Now Immediate Past Chair, Todd Pottebaum, MAS+, conducted a ceremonial passing the gavel to new Board Chair Dawn Olds, MAS, in Las Vegas. "The energy at Expo was an outstanding way to start the year and a reminder of how important human connection is to this industry," Olds says. "I think the year of virtual connections gave us all a fresh appreciation for live events."

Working closely with the Mandalay Bay, the Association put in place plans and policies that followed CDC recommendations and Clark County requirements to respect the realities of the ongoing pandemic, while allowing exhibitors and attendees to make the most of their time at the show and with their peers. The Mandalay Bay stepped up as well. Since The PPAI Expo 2020, it had installed a significantly updated and improved ventilation and filtration system in the building, and substantially enhanced its sanitation practices.

Overwhelmingly, those who made the trip say they got what they came for. Nearly 10,000 supplier and distributor professionals attended The PPAI Expo 2022, a strong number considering the challenges, albeit down from near-record attendance of the event in January 2020, before pandemic swept the nation. Those attendees represented more than 50 states, the District of Columbia, four Canadian provinces, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, The Netherlands, Curacao and Belgium. The PPAI Expo also remains the undisputed hub for first-of-the-year business meetings and events; several member companies and organizations scheduled their annual awards programs and meetings in conjunction with the show.

Universal among everyone in Las Vegas was the drive to do business, connect with peers and get 2022 off to an exciting start.

“Expo was another great experience for our crew,” says Brittany David, MAS+, chief revenue officer at exhibitor SnugZ USA. “The pent-up energy was released and everybody was engaged and ready to get some momentum going into the new year. The valuable time we were able to spend with each person made this well worth our investment in time and money.”

Mike Landry, director of corporate sales with TUMI, says, “People came into the TUMI booth with specific opportunities, delivery dates, model numbers and categories. There were some amazing discussions that we were grateful to have. The quality of conversation was every bit as strong as any other non-pandemic year. I was pleasantly surprised in people’s acceptance of supply chain disruptions. They get it.

“Those that really wanted to be there and do business made the effort to show up. And do business they did.”

For attendees, The PPAI Expo 2022 delivered practically everything they expected from the show. The EXPO Live interview booth returned, in a new location, and streamed live product demonstrations and interviews with notable speakers, exhibitors and industry leaders. Pop-up experiences brought surprise and delight to the show floor, including a puppy playpen from Wagging Tails Rescue in Las Vegas and complimentary coffee and tea in multiple locations. A beer garden created a fun environment for networking opportunities, all alongside more than 700 exhibiting companies, covering almost 1 million square feet of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Some 5,800 distributors attended the event.

“This was my second PPAI Expo, and compared to 2019, I got so much more out of this show,” says Jeff Cowens, owner of Amplify Branding. “This time around, I had specific questions I needed answered and vendors I wanted to connect with. So many new ideas, so many ways to improve my efficiency.”

Brian Jolin, MAS, of Jolin Promo, says, “For me, the highlight of the week at the PPAI Expo were the one-on-one discussions with supplier executives, other distributors and industry leaders. I finally met a ton of people in the flesh who I had become digital friends with during pandemic. I had serious conversations about capabilities, lead times, inventory coming into stock and the possibility of selling my business in the future. Despite being masked almost 90% of the time, I came home feeling connected, energized and like I got tons of real work done. Overall, it was an incredible investment and I feel better prepared for 2022 for having attended.”

The PPAI Expo trade show floor opened Jan. 11 with a rousing march-through by the University of Nevada- Las Vegas drumline. Above, right: Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, and Sherri Lennarson, MAS, were enshrined to the PPAI Hall of Fame during the Chair's Leadership Dinner.

The promo community’s big ideas were also on display among the presenters taking part in The PPAI Expo Conference’s education programming, and in the accomplishments and histories of the industry luminaries celebrated at the Chairman’s Leadership Dinner.

Keynote speaker Simon T. Bailey kicked off of the 42 sessions in the education line-up by urging attendees to take a more purposeful approach to customer service, what he calls “customer love,” in his opening presentation, “Breakthrough Thinking For Breakthrough Sales.” Among the professional development offerings, highly attended sessions were held on topics such as corporate social responsibility and the industry’s digital transformation. 

Keynote speaker Simon T. Bailey (left) opened education sessions at The PPAI Expo Conference, which included discussions on an array of topics, including digital transformation and corporate social responsibility within the industry. Above, right: The PPAI Board was on hand for the Chair's Leadership Dinner.

At the Chairman’s Leadership Dinner, two industry legends, Sherri C. Lennarson, MAS, retired senior vice president of business development at Bankers Advertising Company, and Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, president of Cliff Quicksell Associates, were inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame. PPAI also presented its H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award to Peter Hirsch, MAS, president of Hirsch Gift, and its Distinguished Service Award to Brandon Mackay, MAS, president of SnugZ USA, and David Regan, MAS, vice president of sales and marketing at The Vernon Company.

The Distinguished Service Award was presented to to Brandon Mackay (left), MAS, president of SnugZ USA, and David Regan (center), MAS, vice president of sales and marketing at The Vernon Company. Peter Hirsch (right), MAS, president of Hirsch Gift, received the H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award.

A virtual extension of the experience, PPAI Expo Direct-2-You, was held Feb. 22-23. During the virtual event, attendees met with suppliers and participated in exclusive professional development sessions with keynote speakers and industry professionals.

The PPAI Expo 2023 will return Jan. 9-12 to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.


SAGE Search Trends From The PPAI Expo Week 2022

  • Forks
  • Tubes-Packaging 
  • Timers 
  • Tripods 
  • Hockey Pucks 
  • Trade-Show Booths


(As compared to 52-week prior averages)

  • Port Authority® Silk Touch™ Performance Long Sleeve Polo Shirt 
    Pocket Work Flashlight (10 SMD) 
    Bright Shine LED Key Chain 
    Durahyde Tech Padfolio 

  • On-The-Move Touch-Thru Activity Waist Pack

  • 16 Oz. Hampshire Stoneware Mug



It isn’t all business in Las Vegas, of course. The PPAI Expo is where the promo industry cuts loose.

In a first for the show, on Jan. 12, PPAI and SAGE hosted Promopalooza at Allegiant Stadium, a short trip from Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The event was billed as “the biggest and baddest Expo Party ever,” and hardly any attendee would argue that it didn’t live up to the hype. A sellout crowd of more than 1,000 professionals attended the event, which almost doubled the attendance from previous years. 

“We did a full reevaluation of The PPAI Expo from top to bottom this year—everything from education to networking events to the show floor and registration,” says Alan Peterson, PPAI vice president, business development. “Given the opportunity to host an event at Allegiant Stadium, both in terms of proximity and its ability to bring a unique and one-of-a-kind experience to our audience, we thought there was no better way and time to celebrate coming back together and the resiliency of the promotional products industry.”

Partygoers enjoyed networking, drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres at the stadium, which opened its doors for pro football and major events in 2020. Attendees got access to the playing field and home locker room and enjoyed entertainment from musician and DJ Marquise Jones. Attendees were also able to take home souvenirs in the form of logoed cigars rolled by hand on site.

Ellen Tucker, PPAI director of business development and exhibitions, says that given the success of Promopalooza, attendees can continue to look forward to elevated Wednesday night experiences at The PPAI Expo in the future. 

“From the moment we began marketing the event it became the hottest ticket in the industry,” Tucker says. “The event provided a unique experience people will talk about for years and exceeded all of our goals and expectations.” 


Ellis is the publisher and editor-in-chief at PPAI.