2017 Year in Review: Promotional Products Industry


2017 has been a year of highs and lows. From the infamous Equifax breach that exposed half the country’s personal information, to the once in a lifetime experience of seeing the hauntingly beautiful solar eclipse, to a string of unfortunate natural disasters, only one thing is certain: the promotional products industry has weathered all the storms and is ready to take a look back at our collective successes of the year.

These past twelve months are a testament to our strong sense of community and our unyielding desire to reach new heights, so as the year draws to a close, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and relive some of the major industry milestones.

Notable Tradeshows and Events

The PPAI Expo

The year kicked off with The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas, observing the show’s largest attendance since 2008! Featuring 1,251 exhibiting supplier companies in 3,144 booths, the Expo showcased thousands of new and exciting products and educational events at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Over the five-day event, The PPAI Expo was a time to celebrate exceptional accomplishments in the industry and educate attendees on the latest business trends.

Spark Event

Spark 2017, a PPAI conference for Millennials by Millennials uncovered a completely new take on networking and education for young professionals in the industry. For two days, the attendees got to escape PowerPoint presentations and conference rooms and instead hit the streets of Denver for a more energetic and productive way to work together on industry challenges and educate each other. Young professionals from all over the country came together to hear from industry leaders, participate in group discussion, and grow the promotional products community.


With a record-breaking number of attendees, SAGE Show hit new heights this year and demonstrated the continued growth of the promotional products industry in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. New and returning visitors had the chance to explore over 250 supplier lines, featuring the latest and most popular promotional items, including wearables, writing instruments, drinkware, sports goods, and so much more. In addition to a bustling product tradeshow, SAGE Show devoted a full day to relationship building, education and networking, highlighted by professional education sessions with PPAI and SAGE experts.

Promotional Products Trends

The Fidget Spinner Takeover

For everyone who works in the promotional products world, it was impossible to avoid all the fidget spinner headlines this year. Be it customer appreciation items, tradeshow handouts, or raffle gifts, fidget spinners have become some of the most popular choices for promotional products buyers to easily attract the attention of their customers.

Sleek Drinkware Options

From Yeti Tumblers to reusable S’well bottles, the stylish, yet practical drinkware trend has not only hit the mass retail market with its grand appeal but also found its way into many promotional products campaigns throughout the year.

The Wireless Way

The Bluetooth beacon of technology has taken off in a big way this year. As new innovations popped up on the high-tech horizon, we got to see more and more useful items find their way into consumers’ hands. Some of the most popular handsfree products of the year were portable speakers, Bluetooth item finders, and wireless headphone sets, all with a generous imprint area for our promotional needs.

Philanthropy & Charity PPEF Donations

Kicking the year off to a charitable start, Reciprocity Road and alphabroder both pledged $7,500 and $120,000 respectfully to advocate for the Promotional Products Education Foundation, an established institution, founded by industry leaders as a way to give back to the promotional products community. PPEF recognizes and encourages scholastic excellence and academic performance among promotional products industry professionals’ college-aged children through merit and need-based college scholarships.

Joining in the warmhearted gesture of the above distributors, SAGE Show 2017 marked an altruistic opportunity for SAGE to contribute to the charitable effort as well, by donating $10,000 in support of the PPEF Scholarship.

Hurricane Relief

Given that SAGE Show took place in the aftermath of the historic flooding of the Texas Gulf Coast brought on by Hurricane Harvey, many show attendees brought donations with them to the tradeshow floor on Thursday, August 31. All monetary contributions were delivered to the Business Recovery Fund, organized by PPAI, to support all the affected promotional product businesses. Goods donations, such as clothing and personal care items were also accepted by PPAS and were delivered to Dallas evacuation centers, assisting as many as 10,000 people that have been displaced due to the natural disaster.

In the wake of devastating flooding and damage fueled by an additional wave of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria that ravaged the Puerto Rican and southern coastline, PPAI and SAGE joined forces to grant payment extensions to the industry’s impacted members in Florida and surrounding states. Membership and services for impacted distributors were continued without interruption during this calamitous period and allowed members to not worry about paying for their membership and services, without the risk of losing critical and research tools to rebuild their businesses. They also are providing complimentary Power of Two benefits to CASA (Caribbean Advertising Specialty Association) members in Puerto Rico. Through the Power of Two alliance, impacted CASA distributors received combined benefits of a PPAI membership and a SAGE Total Access Subscription.

Mergers & Acquisitions

Going private, consolidating, entering new markets and introducing original services – these are all kinds of reasons for companies to acquire other firms. In 2017, the industry witnessed a lot of M&A activity and so far, we’ve seen several big deals signaling new products, services, and capabilities coming to the promotional products industry.

Here’s a look at some of the most notable M&A shifts of the year:

America merges with Top of the World LLC.

alphabroder acquired Prime Line

HALO acquired Catalyst Marketing and Michael C. Fina recognition

Chocolate Inn/Taylor & Grant acquired AmuseMints, Private Label Executive Gifts, and Lanco

Grossman Marketing Group acquires Premier Marketing Group

Gildan Activewear acquired American Apparel Brand (certain assets)

Incentives International, Inc. acquired Distributor Midwest Premiums and Promotions

Hub Pen Co. acquired Beacon Promotions

Looking Ahead

High-Tech is King

2017 gave us all a sneak peek at what we can expect out of the following year. Out of the many trends observed, one thing is for sure: high-tech holds a lot of power over consumers, meaning the wireless, portable technology is not going away anytime soon. The wave of wireless charging options is going to flourish in 2018, and with so many options you can take this portable trend (pun intended), we can expect to see new designs and innovations infuse the market very soon.

Millennials in the Workplace

In 2017 more and more millennials embraced the idea of promotional products as a way of branding their marketing campaigns and business ventures, which can only signal for them to rise up in the ranks and become key influencers in deciding the direction and appeal of promotional products as a marketing medium in the year to come.

Despite a tumultuous series of events that shook our society up this year, we take our hats off in pride for the passing year. We all are truly blessed to be working in such an exciting, innovating and infallible industry that’s home a united community of professionals who all share a common love for promotional products. Ready or not, here comes 2018, full of new opportunities to grow our businesses and build up our industry!

And if you were interested as to what were the hottest topics on the SAGE blog this year, read below to find out!

22 Promo Products We Loved at The PPAI Expo

Let the Facts Do the Talking: 25 Stats About Promotional Products

The Do’s and Don’t’s to Selling to Millennials

11 Promo Products for an Active Lifestyle

The 5 W’s of Promotional Products

6 Things You’re Missing Out On by Not Using Promotional Products

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