It’s truly amazing how quickly time seems to pass when you’re working hard and doing something you love.

Already more than halfway into my term as PPAI Board Chair, I find myself wondering where the past seven months have gone. With a clearly defined strategic plan and the guidance and direction of your Board, the PPAI staff is making the most of every day. For that I’m grateful.

Collectively, we have accomplished a great deal worthy of note and recognition. With that in mind, I’d like to share with you an abridged view of 2023’s key accomplishments to date, centered around our five core strategic pillars:

Thus far, 2023 has been marked by numerous successes in PPAI’s essential function to bring the promotional products industry together for the good of all, and many more exciting developments are on the way.

  • The PPAI Expo 2023 was a monumental bounce back, truly a return to what the event was before the pandemic, if not stronger, in many respects. More than 15,500 professionals hailing from 40 countries saw exhibits from over 900 supplier companies.
  • The PPAI Expo 2024 is shaping up to be even bigger and better. Booth sales have already surpassed 2023’s totals, and with the opening of registration just around the corner, the best and brightest of our industry will be joining us in Las Vegas (exhibits open January 16-18, preceded by the conference’s education on January 15).
  • We have focused on strengthening our alliance with the regional association community, reaffirming their essential contribution to our industry’s success. A key component to that success centers around collaboration and partnerships. I’m happy to share that 23 regional associations have formally joined PPAI, which allows PPAI to now amplify our support and shared goals at the local level. And this fall’s Leadership Development Workshop (October 23-25, 2023, Grapevine, Texas) is poised to bring this group together for even greater collaboration.
  • In June, both the North American Leadership Conference and Women’s Leadership Conference returned as sell-out events that helped build member engagement while providing forums for education and networking. As a demonstration of how your Board and PPAI staff continue to listen to our members and evolve, NALC was moved up from its previous late-summer date. Anticipation is already building for next year’s NALC (May 5-7, in Salt Lake City).
  • Concurrently, at the Board’s request and in response to member feedback, PPAI staff is laying the groundwork for what will be a simplified and more intuitive solution to its current membership category structure which will deliver increased value to our members. You will hear more about this positive development early in 2024.

Your Board and PPAI staff have paid meticulous attention to securing our Association’s future as an asset for our industry.

  • PPAI has emerged from the pandemic in a healthier place financially than at any time in its history, leaner than in recent years, yet more agile than ever before.
  • Behind the scenes, Association staff is hard at work seeing through a massive change for any organization: an enterprise resource planning transition that will allow PPAI to evolve and serve members more efficiently.

As our industry strives to live up to the Association’s vision that promotional products be universally valued and essential to every brand, perhaps nothing is more important than corporate citizenship. PPAI is determined to lead the way for our industry and our members.

  • Demonstrating the importance of this strategic pillar, the Association has made a key personnel investment in hiring Elizabeth Wimbush, PPAI’s first-ever director of sustainability and responsibility. She will also oversee PPAI’s expanded corporate responsibility committee of industry volunteers.
  • PPAI took steps to reduce the environmental footprint of all its events, reducing waste and partnering with sponsors to obtain carbon offsets.
  • For the first time ever in 2023, The PPAI Expo was declared a zero-waste event by Mandalay Bay Convention Center, and it’s our intention to repeat this success in 2024 and beyond.
  • Another successful PPAI Product Responsibility Summit (October 8-10 in Alexandria, Virginia) is right around the corner, demonstrating your Association’s evolving commitment to product safety and environmental action.

Digital transformation is a strategic pillar rooted in driving efficiency while eliminating friction between suppliers and distributors. Ultimately, a more seamless end buyer experience will benefit every stakeholder in our community.

  • Promo Data Exchange has seen substantial growth in 2023, with nearly 100 suppliers now on board. PDX complements other industry efforts, such as PromoStandards.
  • PDX is immediately beneficial to thousands of small business members not able to invest in the PromoStandards approach, expanding the gains for suppliers who leverage both the PDX platform and PromoStandards. The 45,000 distributor personnel accessing SAGE every day are now able to note millions of real-time status updates thanks to PDX.
  • PPAI is also extending technology benefits to members, such as the popular NetSuite discount and user group, which have gained impressive traction and a supportive industry community this year. 

Perhaps the most noticeable improvements you as a member will have experienced are the attention and investment in relevant content, research and reports published by the Association over the past two years. These results are the product of the efforts of publisher and editor-in-chief Josh Ellis. Josh has proved to be a key addition to the Association’s staff, and his effort, along with that of his team, has delivered impressive results since his arrival in December 2021. For example: 

  • Through the first half of August, PPAI Media’s 2023 pageviews have increased to nearly triple the amount from the same period in 2021, a mind-boggling 171% increase.
  • Statistics also bear out the increased value in the 2022 redesign of PPAI Newslink, and this year’s rebranding of both PPAI Magazine (formerly PPB) and PromoPro Daily (formerly PC Today) have each garnered improved readership and recognition of their own. Over the past two years, PPAI Media has been truly revolutionized.
  • PPAI’s relaunched research efforts have scored big as well, particularly this year with the success that is PPAI 100. The PPAI 100 program embodies our strategic plan as it recognizes industry firms for their leadership in digital transformation, corporate responsibility and business fundamentals ranging from industry faith to sales growth. Additionally, it fueled positive discussion, impressions and promotion of your Association.
  • PPAI Media has doubled down on its investment in actionable research with the recent hiring of market economist and senior research manager Alok Bhat, who comes to the Association after an 11-year tenure in strategic leadership at consultancy Accenture.
  • Following a three-year in-person hiatus due to the pandemic, PPAI brought promo’s message back to Capitol Hill through Legislative Education and Action Day on June 7. More than four dozen professionals had their voices heard regarding key legislation impacting our industry, holding more than 75 meetings with senators and representatives.
  • Most recently, Promotional Products Work! Day (August 24) kicked off an aggressive buyer outreach campaign for the remainder of 2023. PPAI has engaged online influencers and partnered with both the Public Relations Society of America and the American Marketing Association to bring our messaging to their constituent audiences. Exciting initiatives are underway to generate even greater buyer interest leading up to the holiday season.


Wow! That’s impressive, and there is so much more in the planning and development stages at your Association. I’m proud of all these accomplishments and excited for the future of our industry and PPAI.

With all of this progress, I can’t help but think back to 2020 when, with your support, I was elected to the Board. In the months that followed, we not only navigated the financial uncertainty of a pandemic and what would be a year without The PPAI Expo, but we also initiated and completed a search for a new leader of our Association, all while crafting and publishing a new strategic plan for the future health of the Association. 

That seems like a lot, and it has been. However, when I take stock of all the accomplishments above, it’s clear that high achievement is taking place in the framework of high expectations. One of the most impactful business books I’ve ever read is What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. All of us who have been in business can identify with the message behind it: Change can be hard and uncomfortable. But organizations that refuse to adapt to their environment ultimately cease to be successful.

For PPAI to truly pursue its mission to be the voice and force to advance the promotional marketplace for the benefit of our community, change is required. We’ve all seen change at PPAI – and at times that has been uncomfortable, to be certain. But, we are also seeing the results, and our community has experienced the related advancements and benefits.

In closing, I hope each of you as members can and will trust that the Board as well as PPAI leadership and staff are all working each day on your behalf. Guided by our strategic plan, our North Star remains the ongoing health, growth and success of our members. We appreciate your support.

Thank you.

Kevin Walsh, CAS
Chair Of The Board