Danny Rosin’s passion for marketing and philanthropy – and blending the two as a dynamic, meaningful service to others – began, of all places, in detention.

“In middle school, I got in a lot of trouble,” he says. “I received so many demerits, there were not enough Saturdays to work them off. In order to expunge them, I started a community service club called The Happy Club. The mission was ridiculously broad – to make people happy. We created unique fundraising events that brought students together to help those in need. I now realize I was cause-marketing when I was 15.”

More than 25 years later, an unlikely school project has evolved into a professional and personal calling.

Rosin, co-president and co-owner of North Carolina-based distributor Brand Fuel, has built a career on marketing with a higher purpose. From a business perspective, Brand Fuel values strategic marketing, establishing lasting client connections and developing creative, sustainable solutions for them.

It’s this passion, combined with countless contributions to the promotional products industry and the community, that made Rosin a perfect choice for this year’s PPAI H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award. Named after the late PPAI president emeritus, the honor is presented to members who have shown long-standing empathy, devotion and commitment to improving quality of life and bringing about change for the betterment of a community. 

Rosin’s nominator, Social Good Promotions founder Roger Burnett, says Rosin’s work “has helped countless people and brands realize higher aspirations that will have positive and sustainable impact on both for profit and nonprofit organizations.”

“He finds what matters and connect the dots with success through impact through the industry, the staff, the suppliers, the customers – the community,” Burnett says.

‘Entrepreneurial Instincts’

A self-described “marketing addict,” Rosin first dabbled in branded merchandise when he arrived at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill as an out-of-state student. His parents told him he would have to pay the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition.

“I hated them for that at the time,” he says, “but it fueled my entrepreneurial instincts when I gambled $500 on some ‘Duke Sucks’ T-shirts I designed. That gamble turned into $1,000, and the rest is history.”

Rosin went on to start B Corp-certified Brand Fuel with his best friend from high school, Robert Fiveash. Together, they’ve fulfilled the company’s mission of “strategy first, product second.”

“I love the industry because promotional products can represent the physical manifestation of a company’s brand,” Rosin says. “They are drivers of customer and employee appreciation and acquisition. Also, every company can be a prospect. I remain excited about new decoration techniques, technologies and sustainable products and brands entering our market. It’s an incredibly fun industry where we get to help our clients be ‘Santa Claus’ with every campaign.”

Beyond The Business

With a family at home and a company to run, Rosin could easily say his plate was too full for other ventures.

Instead, he has doubled down on his appetite for marketing. He hasn’t just balanced entrepreneurship with philanthropy – he has merged them together.

Rosin demonstrates that charitable spirit in projects such as PromoCares, which encourages social and environmental responsibility in the promotional products industry and the community; Band Together, which has raised over $10 million for 20 nonprofits since 2001; and Reciprocity Road, an alliance of 10 distributors with over $240 million in projected gross revenue that provides give-back branding initiatives for clients and donates to multiple charities each year. He has also been an active volunteer in the promo industry and previously served on PPAI’s Board for four years.

“It’s important to work toward balance with things that really matter,” Rosin says. I’ve been lucky to have my dreams and my day job coexist. Our industry provides so many opportunities to help others through the nonprofit sector, cause-marketing initiatives and selling products that are associated with giving back to communities.”

Fun, purpose and mattering are core tenets, he adds: “Aligning philanthropy with marketing is a great strategy.”

Band Together, the annual nonprofit concert event that supports various causes in North Carolina’s Triangle area, has been especially rewarding for him outside of the industry.

“Every year I get to stand, with a lump in my throat, on a concert stage with community leaders and raise up a big check for over $1 million,” he says. “The funds we raise help people in need in our community stand a little taller.”

‘A Moral Imperative’

On opening night of The PPAI Expo 2023 in Las Vegas, Rosin accepted his H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award and shared the stage with fellow winners of PPAI’s most prestigious honors: PPAI Distinguished Service Award Recipient Roger Burnett, CAS, and PPAI Hall of Fame Inductees Carol D. Aastad, MAS, and Mary Ellen Sokalski, MAS.

Rosin’s speech contained a message to his peers that was broader in scope than the industry they all share:

“Every single one of you has the potential individually – and even better, collectively – to rise up and do something in the face of adversity. Helping our fellow humans is a responsibility. It’s a moral imperative. We spend too much time trying to gain things we think we need. Life needs to be measured by who we are, how we treat people, our attitudes and kindness. We need to start looking out for each other as well as ourselves.”

Phillips is the deputy editor at PPAI.