This week, promo returned to Capitol Hill to inform legislators and their staff about the promotional products industry. Through PPAI’s annual Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.), industry leaders have forged connections and helped steer Congress’s agenda to benefit the branded merchandise community.

L.E.A.D. drew industry professionals from across the country on May 13-14 to Washington, D.C. Among them was a mix of experienced attendees and first-timers, all ready to share the promotional products industry’s scope, influence and needs with representatives and senators over the course of dozens of schedule meetings.

“Our L.E.A.D. attendee volunteers are the heartbeat of our industry, and their presence on Capitol Hill speaks volumes,” says Andrew Spellman, CAS, vice president at Therabody and PPAI board chair. “Their voices, impassioned and informed, are the threads that weave the fabric of change. Advocating for our industry isn’t just a duty; it’s a testament to their commitment to progress our industry forward.

“Together, we amplify our impact to insure the promotional product industry’s voice is heard.”

Evie Sterner, brand manager at HALO, was one of this year’s first-timers. “Not knowing what to expect or how to be an advocate for PPAI, I was excited and nervous all at the same time. Thankfully, I was teamed with an expert who has participated in several L.E.A.D’s as we both were representing the Rocky Mountain region – Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.

“Out of the gate there was a little lump in my throat, but talking about our industry which I have been a part of for over 20 years and bringing real life client situations in on the conversation became easier. As those conversations went on over the two days, I could see that what we do really does matter and bringing to light that we are not just ‘branded merch.’”

L.E.A.D’s primary objective, as always, is to inform lawmakers about the size and importance of the promo industry, which represents a $26 billion sales market in the United States and employs roughly half a million Americans.

• Of the industry’s 38,000 promo companies in the U.S., some 98% are considered small businesses.

“This is my third time attending L.E.A.D. and I am reminded every time that the people that we meet with, whether it’s a staffer or an elected official, are genuinely interested in whatever concerns we bring to the table,” says Loren Richardson, outside account executive at alphabroder. “They are also amazed at not only how big our industry is but how many small businesses and employees it is made up of.

“Considering how politics are often portrayed, it’s refreshing to see, talk and hear from those on the Hill and have our voices heard. I am honored to have been involved again in PPAI L.E.A.D.”

Bill Petrie, founder and creative director at brandivate and recipient of PPAI’s 2024 Distinguished Service Award, adds, “This is my ninth L.E.A.D. and was easily the most impactful one. The legislators and staff I was fortunate enough to meet with were very receptive to our asks – especially regarding the need to clarify the Department of Labor rules regarding how to classify independent contractors in the promotional products industry. Plus, to a person, they see the value of branded merchandise and how our shared industry is comprised of small businesses.”

L.E.A.D. represents an ongoing conversation between the promotional products industry and Washington, D.C.’s lawmakers.

“Putting members of our promo community in a room with legislators and their aides gives them a chance to do what we already know they’re great at: speak on the topic of promo,” says Dale Denham, MAS, president and CEO of PPAI. “Advocating for the industry in-person keeps promo top of mind not only with the issues that might affect the community, but also the size and reach it represents in the economy.”