AIA held its annual National Sales Meeting this month, drawing more than 150 participants. Hosted virtually for the second year in a row, the Appleton, Wisconsin-based distributor’s “Unite 2021: The Promo Evolution” featured education sessions, industry guest speakers, interactive workshops and AIA’s annual Be Bold Awards.

“Last year, we were faced with the abrupt reality of needing to quickly reimagine how to successfully move forward during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Nancy Schmidt, CEO of AIA. “Although we were virtual again this year, our collective energy was at an all-time high as we shifted our focus to the evolution of our owners’ businesses. Our goal was to provide owners with the confidence and training to implement bolder thinking, be open to new ideas and rethink possibilities to gain new perspectives, own their journey by embracing and living their purpose and to surround themselves with people who inspire them to drive change.”

Over four days, attendees participated in 12 main sessions, six small group breakouts on major topics impacting the industry and business owners, meetings with AIA’s leadership team and 423 one-on-one sessions with suppliers. Highlights of the event included a keynote speech by Dan Pantano, CEO of alphabroder | Primeline, as well as presentations by John Jantsch, marketing consultant, speaker and best-selling author; Chris Blakeslee, president of Bella + Canvas; Paul Kiewiet, MAS+, MiPPA executive director and PPAI Hall Of Fame inductee; and Jeremy Lott, owner and president of SanMar. Additionally, breakout sessions connecting business owners on topics of interest such as women- and minority-owned business owners, young professionals and multi-generational family business owners.

“Unite 2021 was fun-filled, informative and extremely helpful,” says Mindy Moss, owner of Moss Marketing, who was inducted into the AIA Hall of Fame at this year’s meeting. “I am very appreciative that I was able to learn from the speakers and meetings. I can’t wait for the AIA Community to all be together again!”

To close the meeting, AIA hosted the “YOUNITE Under the Stars” awards gala, recognizing owners and suppliers across a variety of categories as part of its annual Be Bold Awards. Three owners received the AIA Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors AIA’s former CEO, the late David Wood—Peter Kubanyi, Promotional Connection, LLC; Bruce Steinman, Image Pros; and Tom Bagli, Bluestone Marketing, Inc.

More than 60 owners were recognized for sales milestones with awards including:

  • AIA Hall of Fame Award, recognizing individuals who have been a part of AIA for 15 or more years and made significant contributions to the industry
  • Top Five Fast Track Award, recognizing owners with the highest increase in sales year over year
  • Multi-million Dollar Summit Award, recognizing owners who billed more than $2 million in the past calendar year
  • Million Dollar Circle of Excellence, recognizing owners who billed between $1 and $1,999,999 million in the past calendar year
  • Evolution Award, recognizing an AIA newcomer who has shown outstanding integration of the AIA core values
  • Peak Performer Award, recognizing an owner who had the largest volume of growth and dollar volume of sales in 2020

AIA also recognized MVP Suppliers with awards including:

Platinum Supplier Awards

  • Largest year-over-year percentage growth – Headwear USA
  • Largest year-over-year dollar growth – AAA Innovations

Gold Supplier Awards

  • Largest year-over-year percentage growth – Cloth Promotions Plus
  • Largest year-over-year dollar growth – Logo Included

Silver Supplier Awards

  • Largest year-over-year percentage growth – NUCOM
  • Largest year-over-year dollar growth – Links Unlimited

Workplace Engagement Award

  • SanMar