PPAI’s vision is that promotional products are universally valued, and the Association looks for ways to engage with its international members year-round. Nearly 100 international attendees at The PPAI Expo this year highlighted the I in PPAI, from long-time attendees to first-timers looking to grow their business footprints globally.

“Engaging in international business is intricate and costly, and our members face increasing demands to cater to global clientele in an evolving landscape,” says PPAI President & CEO Dale Denham, MAS+, who has logged tens of thousands of miles over the past couple of years traveling to visit promo pros on multiple continents – including Europe’s largest promotional products trade show earlier this month.

“By convening the global marketplace at the PPAI Expo, we contribute significantly to enhancing the efficacy of global campaigns and distribution strategies,” adds Denham. “Moreover, The PPAI Expo serves as a catalyst for forging connections, allowing companies to find suitable partners, facilitating smoother business operations.”

PPAI Media reached out to about a dozen of this year’s international attendees to ask what makes The PPAI Expo a must-attend event. Some are suppliers looking to break into the U.S. market, while others are distributors looking to broaden their reach. For most, making new connections and building on existing ties is the main priority, but checking out the latest products and trends is also a big draw. Here’s what they had to say:

“The PPAI Expo offers a number of great networking opportunities, professional development and social events,” says Jonathan N. Strauss, president & CEO of Promotional Product Professionals of Canada, which hosted an exclusive Canadian VIP Party with PPAI and SAGE this week.

It’s a great way to kick off the New Year, he says, adding that PPPC members are excited to reconnect with their U.S.-based colleagues and counterparts. “PPAI is a valued strategic partner, and it’s always a great opportunity when we can attend each other’s events, support one another and help our members to grow their businesses and visibility.”

This is the first visit to The PPAI Expo for Steven Baumgaertner, managing director marketing & sales of cyber-Wear Heidelberg GmbH, the largest distributor in Germany. He is also head of the European Assoziation Cooperation, a similar organization to PPAI.

“I’m curious to see the setup and to meet a lot of people from all over the world,” says Baumgaertner. “Our industry is getting closer and closer, and our challenges are all the same – doesn’t matter where we are located.”

Returning attendee Caroline Bourke, COO of ASA Brands, an Ireland-based distributor, says The PPAI Expo provides a comprehensive showcase of the latest and most innovative promotional products, as well as a networking hub for industry professionals.

Attending The PPAI Expo is a strategic move for seeking fresh and innovative promotional materials,” says Bourke. “The Expo not only provides a first-hand look at the latest trends but also offers a chance to establish direct connections. … The relationships formed and knowledge gained during the event has a really positive impact on our business.”

Robert Williams, MAS, is director of Australian distributor Your Brand Unleashed and president of the Australasian Promotional Products Association. He has made the trek to Las Vegas for over a decade and enjoys the opportunities for networking, education and “amazing fun” to be had at The PPAI Expo.

“It’s been a staple for the past 13 years now that the year always starts off at PPAI,” says Williams. “It’s a great way to motivate myself and come back with more knowledge, more friends and some great products!”

Keeping an eye on trends and seeking out new ideas and hot products are critical for Amit Brill, director of Amrod, a South Africa-based supplier that’s the continent’s largest. He’s attended The PPAI Expo three times before this year, once bringing some of his company’s top customers along.

“It’s important for us to attend expos around the world to ensure that we retain our position and continue to innovate for our customers,” says Brill. “I haven’t attended since 2018, and I find it important to maintain relationships and create some new ones, plus keep an eye on trends in the industry that we may not be aware of.”

In addition to keeping abreast of industry trends, he adds, The PPAI Expo is a great way to stay connected with global partners. “We also have a lot of relationships in the industry in the U.S., and it’s an opportunity to see our friends.”

Meeting in person with peers and colleagues is a critical part of the Expo experience, but even more so for global attendees who may not otherwise get together. Alexis Bellon, CEO and owner of Mexico-based distributor Cklass, has been attending the show since before it moved from Dallas to Las Vegas in 2003.

“It’s a gathering place where I get to meet with my global colleagues – distributors from all around the world and vendors,” says Bellon. “Also, I belong to several buying groups, and we get together in Las Vegas before the show starts.”

Silvia Pallaro, country manager North America for Italy-based supplier Atlantis Headwear (booth 5755), is also a repeat attendee. She says the “vibrant atmosphere” of The PPAI Expo makes it “a fantastic platform to build meaningful connections with fellow professionals” and learn from industry experts.

“We decided to return because of the consistently high-quality content and the positive impact it has on our business,” adds Pallaro. “The Expo provides a unique chance to showcase our products, gain exposure and connect with potential clients and partners. The variety of exhibitors and educational sessions creates an environment that truly adds value to our industry knowledge, especially being based overseas.”

Bottom line, she says, it’s the place to be if you want to be successful.

“The PPAI Expo is perceived from us and all the promo industry as the most important event, where you must be,” says Pallaro. “Not only does it provide a platform to showcase our offerings but also serves as a valuable source of insights, helping us adapt and grow. The networking opportunities and connections we make at the event are fundamental in strengthening our collaborations and partnerships.”

Gerardo Hamilton, chief commercial officer for MXPromo, a Mexico-based distributor, agrees that the camaraderie among promo pros is a highlight. Like many returning attendees who were kept away by the pandemic, it’s been a while since his last visit, and he views The PPAI Expo as a great way to discover new ideas, meet new suppliers and jumpstart future business dealings.

“It is a one-stop deal, to be able to contact so many suppliers in such a short and limited time,” says Hamilton. “There is nothing like face-to-face contact with top management of suppliers, both existing ones and those we intend to welcome to our family of industrial partners.”

Deyan Angeloev, founder & CEO of Bulgaria-based supplier Organic Tee Star (booth 5467), is one of the first-time exhibitors eager to make connections among the roughly 10,000 distributors walking the show floor this year. After nearly a decade in operation in Europe, the sustainable apparel company is looking to grow on this side of the Atlantic.

“We’re pretty new to the U.S. market,” Angeloev says. “Attending the PPAI Expo offers an invaluable opportunity to introduce our company to many more people in the industry, expand our growing list of valued distributor partners and share our knowledge and passion for sustainability.”

Some international attendees are suppliers testing the waters to learn more about the event and how they can secure a spot as an exhibitor next year.

Perhaps most importantly, The PPAI Expo gives promo pros around the world a chance to get together and erase the miles between them. Clive McCorkell, managing director of Pyramid award-winning Australian distributor Arid Zone, says he and his colleagues have been attending since the Dallas days for that very reason.

“We really enjoy the opportunity to learn what’s happening in our industry on a global stage,” he says. “We are based in Australia, and it can feel isolated at times.”

In addition to catching up with their global network of industry colleagues and friends face to face, he says, the Arid Zone team keeps coming back to check out the latest trends and opportunities, as well as learn more about operational issues like sustainability.

“Our industry is very much growing in a global direction, and PPAI provides the perfect platform to connect with industry leaders and colleagues,” McCorkell says. “We are always curious on how our industry is evolving. … Above all, we are a people-focused industry, and we really look forward to connecting with the friendships we have developed over the many years.”