These PPAI Pyramid Award-winning marketing campaigns showcase the resourcefulness and bold ingenuity of talented marketers who knew they had to find ways to persevere through the staggering limitations.

With in-person meetings and trade shows at a standstill during these awards’ window—April 1, 2020 to April 1, 2021—they turned up their creativity to roll out new products, launch new initiatives, grow sales, bring people together, provide inspiration and even punch the daylights out of one of the most challenging eras in industry history.

For more than 60 years, the PPAI Pyramid Award, sponsored by Pacesetter Awards Co., has been the industry’s most coveted company recognition. Read on to see the promotions conducted during the contest period that won gold and silver in marketing in five categories: branding, cause advocacy marketing, digital self-promotion, self-promotions and supplier sales support materials. 

Braintree, Massachusetts

Objective: The goal was to drive more business by adding a line of U.S.-made, small-batch snacks sourced from passionate makers and creatively packaged with existing HPG promotional products using the makers’ own stories in the marketing campaigns and sales pitches. A new name—Batch & Bodega—logo, brand, website and product packaging were developed.

Strategy And Execution: The team visited food shows across the U.S. to find and taste the best small-batch, gourmet snacks, and the makers selected were invited to partner with HPG to supply food in bulk to the HPG/Beacon Promotions facility. The team developed a variety of kit themes by combining the snacks, existing HPG promotional products and premium packaging. For example, the “Cookies & Crumbs” kit contains three types of cookies and a customizable Origaudio “Crumbee” desktop vacuum cleaner packaged in a box decorated with cookie graphics. At the Beacon Promotions facility, new kitting processes were established and a new handwriting machine was added to create complimentary personalized cards for each kit. Supporting collateral included flyers, videos and high-res photography, all of which were available for download from the new website. In addition, email, direct mail, social media and show promotions were all used to introduce and promote this new line.

Results: The initial inventory purchase had to be tripled to meet demand and within six months of operation the line was generating seven-figure revenues—more than 200% above the initial goal.

Cap America
Fredericktown, Missouri

Objective: The branding campaign to introduce CA Premium Line, a new line of retail-inspired headwear with low minimums and quick turn times, targeted more than 30,000 distributors using the web, email, video, direct mail, social media, a catalog and flyers.

Strategy And Execution: The new line was teased with email and social media ads featuring product photography and videos, and showcasing the new CA shield logo and tagline “Undisputed Performance.” A separate catalog, along with specially-designed hang tags and visor stickers, further distinguished the line from the supplier’s other products. Updated booth signage and display racks for distributor showrooms finished out the promotion. 

Results: Less than a year after the initial launch, over $1.6 million worth of CA premium line products had been sold and the styles continue to climb in popularity on industry platforms in searches as verified by ESP, SAGE and DistributorCentral. 

Koozie Group
Tampa, Florida


Objective: Koozie Group’s social impact and sustainability commitment, “Keep it. Give it.,” is aligned with its mission to leave a positive, lasting impact and it is an important component of the supplier’s new identity to build a foundation for scalable, profitable and sustainable growth within these four pillars: fostering diversity and inclusion, giving back to employees and community, safety and social responsibility, and environmental stewardship.

Strategy And Execution: Beginning in February 2020, a cross-functional steering committee met regularly to establish the program and define the four pillars, identify a baseline and recommend goals. The program debuted to employees in November 2020 and rolled out to industry media in January 2021. 

Results: A 26-member, employee-led Diversity and Inclusion Council was formed in mid-2020. The company has also given back to employees by providing training and development programs, perks, tuition reimbursement, community service opportunities and dedicating 3% of EBITDA to 501(c)(3) employee-selected charitable causes. The supplier’s commitment to brand safety and responsible sourcing now includes C-TPAT Tier II certification, CPSIA, applicable FDA regulations, technology standards and Prop 65 compliance, among other initiatives and it strives to improve sustainability and eco-consciousness in five areas: facilities, transportation, packaging, recycling and products. The initiative has also guided a set of goals to achieve by 2024. 


Objective: In 2020, as COVID-19 spread, many companies suffered financially and were forced to furlough employees. The Community Tee Project (CTP) was a three-part fundraising initiative that distributors, decorators and dealers could adopt to keep employees working, support back-to school fundraising and raise funds for local businesses. 

Strategy And Execution: OMG provided communication resources, free store-building services and project-related logo designs to clients. To participate, dealers, distributors and decorators identified local businesses, schools and organizations in need of financial support, selected a unisex t-shirt and a single-color logo and created an online pop-up fundraising store, adding messaging on the storefront to communicate the purpose and goal. 

Results: The CTP fundraiser reached businesses and schools in 48 states and cities in Canada raising over $124,000. It also helped more than 100 OMG distributor clients keep their doors open and employees working during a time of uncertainty.  

City Paper Company
Birmingham, Alabama


Objective: This project sought to thank customers in a personal way and acknowledge the difficulties that 2020 brought, while igniting interest in sales for 2021.

Strategy And Execution: The team determined 2020 was not a one-size-fits-all kind of year, which made it challenging to select a single thank-you gift for customers. Instead, the distributor developed an ecommerce site with seven different categories (Success, Comfort, Joy, 2021, Wellness, Kindness and Adventure) and allowed clients to choose their own gift. They were sent an email with login information and once orders were collected, the company ordered products based on client requests. Each gift was custom imprinted and mailed in a specially-designed box. 

Results: Following the campaign, the company received a request from a prospect to create a similar gift ecommerce site for several divisions of its company. This account is now a $150,000 customer. 


Objective: The company’s Ambassador Program was designed to further encourage and reward the existing referrals it was already receiving from current customers. The ultimate goal of the program was to successfully onboard 50% of referred companies.

Strategy And Execution: The initial planning of the commonsku Ambassador Program included selecting the name, brand colors, logo and palette. It was decided that prizes would be a mix of physical products and education, to stay in line with core company values. Once customers signed up for the Ambassador Program, they would receive a referral form link (specific to them) to start logging their referrals. Once a referral came through and the sales team qualified the lead, the customer would get a prize. For their first referral, they received a limited edition commonsku swag pack including products with a summer lunch box theme, five referrals earned a ticket to skucon (or skucon at home) and 10 referrals earned a ticket to skucamp. 

Results: The company exceeded its goal and onboarded 85% of the companies referred, resulting in 55 new customers for commonsku.   

Overland Park, Kansas

Objective: The POWER MOVE™ campaign was designed to educate wholesale partners, distributors and end users on product function, increase conversions, upsell current customers on superior products and create brand awareness to help DRI DUCK become a leader in the workwear industry. 

Strategy And Execution: In Fall 2020, DRI DUCK introduced a new performance workwear collection focused on movement and comfort called POWER MOVE™. The team started creating the campaign by asking themselves “WTF? What’s the Function?” This then became the campaign theme and drove creative decisions. Teasers prior to the collection’s launch created energy and excitement through a daily Instagram story countdown, unboxing videos from influencers and cryptic product videos on social feeds and promotional emails. An early access email allowed loyal customers to preview and shop three days before the official opening. Once the collection was officially launched, there were landing pages hosted by DRI DUCK and its selling partners, paid social ads, extensive influencer and product ambassador engagements, email campaigns and video content on all media, including TikTok, along with a long-form video showing the product in action on an influencer’s Alaska fishing trip. 

Results: The campaign reached approximately 4,500 customers from trade show and promotional product platforms garnered 3,196,480 impressions from social platforms, and saw 14,487 total opens from email platforms. For the period tracked for this competition, 5,396 units were sold along with 928 direct-to-consumer orders, with sales totaling $422,591.

Promotional Marketing Association of Northern California (PMANC)
Gilbert, Arizona


Objective: The objective was to attract the 82 members, who typically attend the regional association’s annual in-person holiday event, to attend a virtual holiday event in December 2020 and engage them for the full 90-minute program. 

Strategy And Execution: The live, virtual Dinearound Holiday Affair took attendees into the homes of six “celebrity” chefs (board members) as they prepared various courses and shared stories about their recipes with viewers. The chefs wore Dinearound-logoed aprons and used custom cutting boards and branded wine glasses. There was also a cookie exchange where members could share recipes online in four categories and win prizes. The holiday event was promoted through emailed invitations, social posts and direct outreach from board members.

Results: PMANC was thrilled to attract 95% of its target audience (78 individuals) to the virtual holiday event and reported that all of them remained engaged in the event through the full 90 minutes. 

St. Louis


Objective: When COVID-19 forced cancellation of the Facilisgroup Partner Summit and Supplier Showcase in June 2020, the company developed a virtual conference, Rebound-20, which ran from May 19 to June 12, 2020. Its focus was to bring the company’s partner community together to discuss managing through the uncertainty, identifying new opportunities and developing short-term and long-term roadmaps for success. 

Strategy And Execution: The event was promoted and conducted entirely online with digital assets distributed through email and social media, live digital session branding, web assets and more.

Results: The first day of the virtual conference opened with a townhall featuring two high-profile supplier owners. Four weeks of daily virtual sessions followed hosted by industry leaders and members of Facilisgroup’s management team. A total of 136 companies and 575 individuals registered for the event and the anecdotal and survey feedback received indicated the event was a tremendous success. 

Michigan Promotional Professionals Association (MiPPA)
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Objective: Wild Wednesday Webinar was a professional development series, delivered weekly, to educate, inform and inspire MiPPA members and 22 participating regional association partners across the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada.

Strategy And Execution: The strategy was to expand its existing monthly webinars to a weekly webinar series for regional association partners. MiPPA volunteers and staff delivered timely, industry-specific content created and presented by some of the most highly regarded and sought-after professionals in the industry. The webinars were promoted via email and the web and delivered online via the GoToWebinar platform. 

Results: The program achieved the three pillars set forth by MiPPA’s professional development team—educate, inform and inspire. Specifically: A total of 4,982 CEUs were awarded, 35 webinars were produced from April-December 2020 with 22 sessions on consecutive weeks in April through August. Participation totaled 7,665 people with an average single-webinar audience of 265.   

Social Good Promotions
Sandusky, Ohio

Objective: The primary objective of this campaign was to showcase more about the “why” behind Social Good Promotions’ work and to use this strategy as a major differentiator. The company worked with its supplier partners to develop a video content series that could simultaneously drive a call to action while educating, informing, entertaining and inspiring viewers. The target audience were businesses that share the company’s belief that connecting commerce with purpose can make the world a better place.

Strategy And Execution: Elements included web-hosted videos, webinars, original podcasts and articles plus guest appearances on industry and non-industry channels. The distributor also developed a sub-theme for its brand, the soGOOD Supply Co. label, which honors its relationship with suppliers and it was printed on product boxes shipped to clients. 

Results: Through this campaign, Social Good Promotions grew its business by 86% year-over-year while creating goodwill for its employees, partners and the community. 

Stormtech USA, Inc.
Burnaby, British Columbia

Objective: Stormtech pivoted early in 2020 to sell face masks and wanted to increase mask sales to 15% of revenue by refreshing its marketing materials. 

Strategy And Execution: The core elements of the program were professional videos filmed at Lonsdale Quay outdoor public market, SeaBus terminal station and a park in Vancouver which showed the company’s full collection of protective face masks. The lifestyle product videos were posted on the website and were the centerpiece of an email sent to more than 10,000 distributors. Professional photography was also shot for use in the catalog, website and flyers. Special “Authorized Distributor” social media assets were provided to distributor partners to post on their own social media channels. Shorter, product-specific videos were created and added to the product detail page on the web.

Results: The videos generated $11.2 million in mask sales, exceeding the revenue goal. 

PeerNet Group
Mechanicsville, Virginia 


Objective: “Fresh Ideas 2021: Packed with Solutions for the Road Ahead” used custom mailers along with curated products to help distributors (PeerNet Group is an alliance of 17 top tier promotional product distributors) reconnect with clients, showcase a well-executed marketing campaign and kickstart new business in a creative way.  

Strategy And Execution: The campaign featured a vintage road-trip theme delivered with four mailers and supported by email. The first mailer was a customized Brandelope containing a 2021 Fresh Ideas catalog along with a note pad. A series of three vintage suitcase-shaped mailers in graduated sizes followed, each branded with the participating distributor’s logo and containing products such as stickers, chocolate, webcam cover, drinkware, a pen, a beanie and more. The products chosen related to the road-trip theme and demonstrated the distributor’s decoration capabilities, depth of product selection and creative solutions.

Results: Early results showed a very favorable response to receiving the mailers which opened conversations about new business for existing clients. The close rate for new prospects was 25% after the second mailer and that rate increased with the third and fourth mailers.  

Terry Town
San Diego, California


Objective: To be mindful of where people were spending most of their time in 2020, the company’s annual holiday client gift was a care package of home comfort items designed to show appreciation for their business. The gift was also designed to spotlight the company’s diverse line of products and how it caters to the new work-from-home environment. 

Strategy & Execution: The strategy was to create an impactful collection of products that would be used and appreciated by recipients at home. Included were kitchen items (an oven mitt and kitchen apron) for the amateur chef, a luxury item (a cozy, warm Tahoe microfleece robe) and a reusable face mask. All of the items carried the recipients monogram and the same festive artwork: a knitted pattern that resembled a holiday sweater. The items were tucked into Terry Town’s logoed gift box along with a hand-written letter from a member of the sales team. 

Results: The Home For The Holidays campaign not only garnered lasting appreciation from clients but it grew sales too. The items that showed the largest gains in sales were, in order from lowest to highest, the gift box, oven mitt, robe and apron—with the apron increasing total revenue by 57% from Nov. 2020 to April 2021.  

Apopka, Florida

Objective: The goal was to show clients and top prospects how they could engage with their audiences in new ways in 2021. The concept was simple: Give people an opportunity to punch out 2020 while inspiring them to come out swinging in 2021.

Strategy And Execution: The distributor worked with its creative partners to develop an augmented reality game in which players could hit a swinging punching bag until it exploded. The 190 targeted recipients also received a custom gift box containing boxing gloves, a custom journal and a t-shirt. The boxing gloves and journal connected to the AR game via a QR code and NFC, respectively. A themed landing page and a month-long social media campaign also supported the program. By combining interactive branded products with an online experience, the company demonstrated how it helps customers command the attention of their audiences. To build excitement for the campaign after the gift boxes had been shipped, the company also created a New Year’s Eve teaser video and released social media posts. These included a “2020 walkout” song playlist on Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube, a QR code linking to the 2020 Knockout game, an engagement blog post, an inspirational movie list, a video of the boxing gloves in action, screenshots of customer feedback and a t-shirt giveaway contest.

Results: This campaign was an incredible success with a return on investment of more than four times the cost.  

Hendersonville, Tennessee

Objective: To launch a business services company’s new brand and drive business during the global pandemic, the company enlisted a small group of trusted industry influencers, provided them with carefully selected promo products and asked them to share on social media.  

Strategy & Execution: A select group of 25 industry influencers were asked to be brand advocates for a week. Their charge was simple: share on social media each of the promo products sent to them. Memorable, high-quality products were selected, decorated, packaged and shipped, including a t-shirt, pen, metal “membership” card, coaster, can cooler and whiskey stones. 

Results: While the campaign was thoughtful, purposeful and intentional, the organizers couldn’t have predicted the overwhelming response: friendly competition, videos going viral and the FOMO from others. Overall, 12 new business appointments were set and seven new clients were added for a total combined revenue of $28,000. 

Encino, California

Objective: The objective was to connect with clients in a thoughtful way and provide an example of a well-designed curated product kit. 

Strategy & Execution: The company’s annual client promotion, the WHOOPLA Summer Swag kit, was reworked in 2020 to focus on branded PPE products. The creators based the name of the kit on the classic ’80s video game, Space Invaders, and called it the Germblasters Kit. Inside a custom, zippered pouch were hand sanitizer, breath mints, two types of face masks and a no-touch hand tool. The pouch was mailed in a box custom printed on the inside only to resemble an arcade cabinet—the outside of the box was left blank to keep the contents a secret.

Results: Within three weeks, the mailing drew a 40% response from the 200 recipients and the promotion spawned numerous projects totaling over $500,000.   

Promo PSI
Carrollton, Texas


Objective: The supplier’s aim was to create an unboxing experience that showcased its extensive capabilities to clients and prospects.

Strategy And Execution: The theme, “You’ve Got Mail,” was an ideal choice for this packaging-related mailer sent to more than 100 customers and prospects in early 2021. A large black corrugated mailer box held several of its most popular packaging products along with a pack of Promo PSI product playing cards; each card depicted one of its products and the colors available. A small pouch was filled with chocolates and the box was finished with a brochure and a card pocket with the imprint “Call Me” which held the sales rep’s business card.

Results: At least 20 orders were received immediately and Promo PSI continued to receive orders from the campaign. These orders brought in revenue that was more than 10 times the cost of the campaign. 

Overland Park, Kansas

Objective: DRI DUCK wanted to enhance the user’s experience with its new catalog, and also raise brand awareness, provide interactive product education and increase sales conversions.

Strategy And Execution: Throughout the catalog development process, the supplier focused on the new products and best-sellers in its line and built the catalog around those items. It also used lifestyle photography and ensured the photos showcased real people who wear its garments to work. The catalog incorporated embedded product videos and storytelling to give life to the products, and better communicate the company’s brand promise: quality, comfort and outdoor function. 

Results: The response received from its 2021 catalog launch was overwhelmingly positive. Also, by producing a digital catalog for the first time in 2021, the supplier was able to reduce its print catalog quantity by a third.  

Vantage Apparel
Avenel, New Jersey

Objective: Vantage’s Sample Sidekick is a virtual meeting assist that takes apparel and decoration beyond the screen and puts it into clients’ hands. Through this program, Vantage sought to increase product knowledge while boosting its monthly quotes. 

Strategy And Execution: Each sample box was curated to include up to three seasonal trending styles that show fabric quality and decoration options, along with a marketing insert and catalogs. The boxes were shipped to arrive at least two days before the scheduled virtual meeting. Vantage also created a landing page to provide supportive information about the products featured as well as sales tools that could be customized and shared. 

Results: Surveys have shown a more than 90% positive rating on the concept, content, presentation and value, while 80% of customers said they would either participate again or pay freight for future mailings.  

PPAI will begin accepting entries for its 2023 Pyramid Awards program starting April 4 and ending May 13, 2022. Categories include Client Programs, Marketing Programs, Supplier Decorating and Technology. Winning a PPAI Pyramid is an outstanding way to get recognition for your hard work and gain exposure for your company, too. Find the entry form and instructions at 

Tina Berres Filipski is the former editor and director of publications at PPAI.