For more than 60 years, the PPAI Pyramid has stood as a beacon of excellence to recognize the creativity, originality and flawless execution achieved by talented promotional professionals. These exceptional efforts can spark spectacular success for the client—and distributor. This year 11 companies were recognized in five categories with a PPAI Pyramid Award for Client Programs. Ignite your imagination and find inspiration from nine of these Pyramid-winning promotions.

Make Your Best Work Count

The entry period for 2021 Pyramids in four categories will be opening soon. Mark your calendar now for these opening and closing dates and find entry forms and details at

2021 Competition Deadlines

April 1, 2020 - April 30, 2020

April 1, 2020 - April 30, 2020

April 27, 2020 - May 29, 2020

April 27, 2020 - May 29, 2020



Type Of Client Host committee, sporting event

Target Audience NCAA VIPs, Impact Advisory Group, basketball working group, team administrators and hosts, Minneapolis Local Organizing Committee board, staff and volunteers, and ambassador and partner sponsors—a group of 342 people

Other Media Print was used to tell stories

Primary Objective To recognize and thank Final Four VIPs (including NCAA and local corporate sponsors), create an unforgettable impression of the City of Minneapolis by integrating Minneapolis culture into the mementos and to prioritize suppliers based on ethnic diversity and sustainability

Total Cost $55,000, including promotional products, other gifts, packaging, delivery, logistical planning and licensed product supplied by NCAA

Strategy And Execution The distributor developed and delivered 486 gifts with distinctive Minneapolis themes, vetted product suppliers with diverse backgrounds and built a timeline for execution. Included were themed, custom-printed inserts for all NCAA gift packages, five days of room drops for the top 36 NACC VIPs and single gifts for other gifting groups. Local treats tucked into the Taste of Minneapolis gift baskets included caramel corn, granola, nuts, homemade marshmallows and a cookie. 

Results The gifts met the objective of authentically highlighting Minneapolis and its culture and using unique, distinctive products, not more of the same. An NCAA VIP said, “Impressive. I have done this for a long time; your gifts truly represent your community.” The MLOC CEO said, “STUNNING! I have to use all caps. It’s jaw-dropping, gorgeous work.”


Type Of Client Ride share company

Target Audience 6,100 drivers who have earned the Rider Preferred designation for extraordinary rider feedback

Primary Objective The distributor worked directly with the client’s agency to create a surprise deliverable with unique branding for a special group of drivers to celebrate their achievements. 

Total Cost Approximately $671,000 or $110 per box, including postage and overtime

Strategy And Execution Drivers love the connection with their riders and they are fans of the company itself. This program was a first step in improving communication and the relationship with the driver community. Rider Preferred drivers received a custom box in the mail that featured a variety of processes including soft touch, debossing, embossing and cut-outs. It contained a custom sticker, travel mug and the star of the show: a video screen that played when the box was opened. Drivers also got an exclusive Rider Preferred designation in the app to let riders know whenever they’re matched with an amazing driver, and the company added an extra $1 to every tip as highlighted in the package. Production took approximately eight weeks and delivery was by USPS due to the number of residential deliveries.

Results This campaign was a huge success with plenty of social media coverage—drivers who received the boxes used social media to express their surprise and gratitude. The company plans to repeat the program every six months to recognize a new group of drivers.


Type Of Client Homeless Shelter

Target Audience Sponsors (150 local corporations), attendees (2,000 previous participants) and 300 local churches and youth groups

Other Media Web, email, video, direct mail and radio

Primary Objective To raise funds the shelter could use to restore hope, rebuild lives and end homelessness. The world record attempt became the primary objective the day of the event.

Total Cost $40,103, which included the race website, zoo entry, parking lot rental, printing, timing company and promotional items

Strategy And Execution After nine years of hosting the walk, it needed a little sizzle. The distributor presented the idea of trying to break a world record and the record selected to beat was the most people running a 1K in flip flops. The walk was rebranded to “Walk the Walk to End Homelessness” and the logo was changed from a tennis shoe to a pair of flip flops. A sponsor was secured for the flip flops and each attendee received a pair of flip flops, a t-shirt and free entrance for the day to the Phoenix Zoo, the event location. iHeartRadio stepped in to sponsor the event’s audio/visuals and Marty Manning, a local radio celebrity, was the emcee. The local movie theatre chain, Harkins, also advertised the event for two months at no cost. The client sent flyers to previous attendees and donors eight weeks out. Social media efforts started 12 weeks out.

Results The flip-flop world record attempt helped to attract new donors and also raised awareness. Sponsorships grew 78 percent from $13,350 in 2017 to $63,100 in 2018. Peer-to-peer involvement grew 66 percent from $10,760 in 2017 to $31,765 in 2018. Attendance grew 21 percent from 1,700 in 2017 to 2,163 in 2018.


Type Of Client Café and ice cream parlor

Audience Individuals living in a 20-mile radius of Annapolis, Missouri, with enough expendable income to dine out two to three times a week. Total audience count was 6,974

Other Media Facebook

Primary Objective To increase the café’s out-of-town customer base

Total Budget $10,339

Strategy And Execution A 45-week rebranding campaign reflecting the café owner’s brash and blunt but loveable personality was developed using promotional products and social media. The rebranding included renaming the café The Crazy Sister Café & Ice Cream Parlor and introducing a new logo featuring her likeness. Banners on the building promoted the new name. Facebook ads blanketed accounts within a 20-mile radius, including those in nine small towns, promoting a contest for crazy sayings with photos of the winners, daily specials and the owner “in character.” Beginning in week four, promotional products were used daily onsite to further engage customers to share and recommend their ‘Who You Callin’ Crazy’ experience. Logoed postcards invited guests to submit their crazy sayings for possible inclusion on t-shirts. Stickers with the slogans were used on take-out bags and logoed floor mats greeted customers at the doors. T-shirts for staff and for sale were decorated with different “crazy” sayings on the sleeve. A menu redesign included some of the owner’s famous sayings along with her personal story.

Results The goal of the promotion was to generate 50 percent of café sales from out-of-town customers and that goal was exceeded by 25 percent. As a result of the promotion, 75 percent of sales were from out-of-town customers as tracked by ZIP Codes on checks and credit cards. It was a financial and branding success.


Type Of Client Patent law firm

Target Audience The promotion targeted 600 of the law firm’s attorneys, clients and vendors

Other Media Email

Primary Objective To give attorneys, clients and vendors a carefully selected holiday gift and to thank them for helping the firm reach its 25th anniversary. The client wanted the gift to be useful, gender-neutral, travel-friendly and to symbolize the firm’s commitment to creating quality, high-tech patents.

Total Cost $107,400

Strategy And Execution The distributor recommended the Jabra Elite 65T wireless earbud headphones for their attorneys, clients and vendors because it’s considered the gold standard for wireless calls and audio quality. The carrying case added tremendous value since most of the recipients travel frequently. The case also provided a discrete imprint location. The packages were scheduled to ship for an early December domestic delivery and mid-December arrival for international clients. By delivering the gifts a little early, the client avoided being lost in the Christmas shuffle. This maximized the gift’s impact and created more buzz. A holiday card expressing their gratitude was also enclosed with the gift.

Results The firm uses email thank-you notes received to measure the impact of their holiday gift. This gift generated a record response, producing 57 thank-you emails and the client was thrilled. That is 316 percent of their goal of 18 emails received.


Type Of Client Nonprofit for substance use disorder

Target Audience 240 mental health, sexual abuse and substance use disorder professionals attending an eight-hour education summit, offering 6.5 CEUs to each attendee during the eight-hour summit

Other Media Web, email, direct mail

Primary Objective The 2018 Summit of Intersections was a collaborative nonprofit event hosted by Heartly House, Mental Health Association, United Way, Frederick County Health Department and Wells House with a significant focus on adverse childhood experiences, and the cause and effects of the disorder. The objective was to increase registrations and revenue, provide recognition for the sponsoring organizations and increase awareness for the event and topic.

Total Cost $4,200

Strategy And Execution The logo and branding was designed to depict how each of the issues of mental heath, substance use disorder and sexual assault intertwine with adverse childhood experiences. The summit logo, used on promotional products, collateral material, signage, social media and registration outreach, incorporated adverse childhood experiences into the triangle showing the intersection and how it relates to each element of the three organizations. The bags, lanyards, signage and programs were distributed at onsite registration. The three sponsoring organizations provided promotional items. The summit was highlighted through social media four months prior and online registration was promoted two months prior to the event. Email marketing with a “save the date” message was sent to various organizations five months prior. As a result, the event sold out before the close of registration.

Results The costs of all merchandising was approximately $4,200 with the event netting $15,800, an increase of 55 percent from 2017. The number of attendees increased from 145 to 240 resulting in a 65-percent increase.


Type Of Client University Health Care and STEM Education

Audience The target audience was children in kindergarten through 12th grades, primarily within the state of Iowa in the public and private education system—approximately 20,261 students

Other Media Web, email, direct mail

Primary Objective The internal objective of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program was to increase the total number of students engaged in kindergarten through 12th grade, to increase participation from female and minority students in the STEM program through outreach programs and to grow the number of students participating from rural areas.

Total Cost $81,500

Strategy And Execution Students in kindergarten through 12th grade enrolled in STEM programs at the university hospitals. Strategically selected promotional products that represented science, technology, engineering and math were used during the registration/check-in, lectures, tours and in the three-hour labs that are part of the STEM programs. STEM participants were given a cinch bag with program information in a folder and a lanyard at check-in. Both items featured a special logo that was visible to participating students throughout the event. Several of the items also featured a consistent, branded look for the university’s health care system and College of Medicine. One item that really stood out was the Rubiks Cube, which featured a unique brand. This product was recommended because it encourages problem-solving and critical thinking, which are two fundamental skills inherent in STEM professionals. A custom calendar was created by the college print division and given to professors, schools and legislators.

Results 20,261 students participated in 159 STEM programs with 73 percent of the participants being females and one-third located in rural areas. This resulted in an increase of more than 4,000 students from the previous year and a 22-percent increase in female engagement.


Type Of Client A county agency that provides emergency management preceding, during and following disasters, and education and training to the public regarding emergency preparedness and response

Target Audience All residents of Clallam County in Washington State with a primary focus on 40,000 between 18-60 years old

Primary Objective To promote awareness and generate participation in the MYN (Map Your Neighborhood) and CERT (Community Emergency Response Training) disaster response training programs. The goal was to improve attendance at preparedness seminars and increase the numbers of individuals/families participating in the programs.

Total Cost Approximately $15,000

Strategy And Execution There were several community presentations focused on community preparedness with speakers including employees from emergency management, local fire departments, Red Cross, faith organizations, public utilities and a former state representative. Attendees were encouraged to sign up to learn more about the MYN or CERT programs. The promotional products chosen were those that would be useful in a natural disaster and help spread the word of the program’s availability throughout the community. Logoed key ring clickers and COB multimode lights were used to promote awareness. Both products also included web addresses and contact information and were handed out at presentations and at a Home & Lifestyle Show. All MYN facilitators were given a sling backpack in addition to the clickers and COB lights. CERT graduates were also given a sturdy backpack and a hard hat. Bracelets were also used to identify rescue workers in a training exercise.

Results There have been over 400 families trained in MYN. CERT graduate numbers doubled between July 2018 and July 2019 and there was a 700-percent increase in MYN participants. The increased awareness surpassed the client’s expectations.  


Tina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB.