ASI Chicago Reopens The Promo Industry and Chicago Conventions

Gridiron great Terry Bradshaw preaches love in standing-room-only keynote

TREVOSE, PA – July 15, 2021 – ASI Show® this week helped reopen the promotional products industry and the city of Chicago with a large, successful trade show at the McCormick Place Convention Center. With attendance exceeding expectations, ASI Chicago brought together over 3,500 industry professionals face-to-face at the show for much-needed connections, networking and deal-making.

“ASI is thrilled to lead the way with a historic reopening, hosting the first large trade show in the $20.7 billion promotional products industry and the very first trade show at McCormick since COVID shut it down well over a year ago,” said Timothy M. Andrews, ASI president and chief executive officer. “By noon on our first exhibit day, we had 1,600 attendees already on the show floor and the buzz was happily deafening as we helped suppliers and distributors drive their business, in-person. People are ecstatic to be back together again and we couldn’t be happier with the show results.”

“ASI is thrilled to lead the way with a historic reopening, hosting the first large trade show in the $20.7 billion promotional products industry and the very first trade show at McCormick since COVID shut it down well over a year ago,” said ASI CEO Tim Andrews

During a presentation on the trade show floor, convention center officials presented ASI with a piece of original art and said they were extremely thankful to ASI for supporting the city and McCormick, the largest convention center in the U.S. with 2.6 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space. ASI’s return to the city for its 22nd Chicago trade show gave the tourism and hospitality industries a much-needed boost, helping put people back to work after 16 months of economic hardship during the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Exhibitor Celil Kes, of San Diego’s Let’s Support (asi/61681), echoed the sentiments of many: “People are hungry to get out and find new suppliers. This is the first ‘real’ show. It’s way worth it to come to Chicago. Compared to the 2019 Chicago show, I got two to three times more leads. I love it. I’m happy.”

Brittany Frase, national sales manager with exhibitor Hirsch Gift (asi/61005), said on Wednesday, “The energy is infectious and our booth never slowed down today. It feels like January in July, and we are thrilled to be a part of it.”

ASI Chicago took place Tuesday, July 13 through Thursday, July 15, helping entrepreneurs and small-business owners recover after one of the toughest years in the promo industry’s history, with sales dropping nationwide by 20% in 2020 alone. According to ASI Media reports, promo companies in the Midwest sold a total of $4 billion worth of promotional products in 2020, with Illinois alone selling $591 million worth.

The show attracted 290 exhibiting companies (including 48 new to the Chicago show this year) and more than 2,400 distributors. Overall attendance included people from 44 states and 11 countries, and from 324 Illinois- and 81 Chicago-based companies, along with attendees from 243 women- and 75 minority-owned companies.

In his first time taking the stage in two years, Terry Bradshaw, the affable co-host and analyst of FOX NFL Sunday, wowed a packed ballroom of nearly 350 suppliers and distributors Thursday morning, giving away freebies of his own – three autographed footballs.

Bradshaw shared anecdotes, jokes and his principles for success. “The key ingredient for success is to love what you’re doing,” said Bradshaw, dressed in suspenders and a blue-striped shirt eventually soaked with sweat. “Failure isn’t bad, because that’s when we find out if we really love what we’re doing. Failure develops character.”

A former MVP for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 6-foot-3, Louisiana-born Bradshaw explained the concept of mirror economics, in which you look in the mirror every morning, are brutally honest, dig deep and consider how you treat others. “Looking in the mirror reveals the truth,” Bradshaw said. “When you learn to care about human beings, you’ll see how your business and life grows.”

Stacie Woltman, of American Ad Bag Co., (asi/35290), called Bradshaw motivating and inspiring. Her colleague, Lisa Parker, agreed. “It was all about love,” Parker said. “He started with love and he ended with love.”

Distributor Tonya Banks, general manager of Detroit-based Alliance Prints (asi/117926), called the Chicago show “a definite value” for allowing her to meet in-person with vendors she orders from electronically on a daily basis. “I loved it,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of info to take home and I loved Terry Bradshaw’s perspective – especially what he said about mirror economics.”

Along with the Bradshaw keynote, distributors browsed a busy show floor and took advantage of an opening day keynote by motivational speaker Dan Thurmon – who juggled axes and rode a unicycle while imparting smart business advice to a delighted crowd, a lakefront reception enjoyed by hundreds and a Product Showcase featuring 100 of the newest promo products. Education Day, featuring four tracks and 20 all-new sessions, attracted 386 people to sessions in sales, marketing, design and social media.

CBS Chicago visited the show floor Wednesday and aired a segment featuring Andrews and Lion Circle (asi/67620) President Rich Carollo. Watch the story here:

“People were so excited to be back in person and to touch and feel the products again,” said Regina Herrington, of Tekweld (asi/90807). “The level of proactiveness the distributors have shown on behalf of their end-users, especially for holiday season opportunities, has been impressive and has led to many immediate opportunities for us.”

Visit and for complete coverage of the show.

Pre-COVID, ASI Show annually hosted 15,500 distributor attendees at trade shows and events across North America. ASI Show is already planning to wow attendees at ASI’s 2022 shows in Orlando (January 4-6, 2022), Fort Worth (January 31-February 2, 2022) and Chicago (July 19-21, 2022). Registration opens in August.

For information on ASI Show, please contact Andy Cohen, senior vice president of events, media and marketing services, at [email protected]. For info on exhibiting at ASI Shows, contact ASI’s Meghan DeFrancesco at [email protected]. Check the ASI Show website for the latest updates and schedules on all ASI shows and events.

About ASI Show
The ASI Show Family of Events includes virtual and in-person shows and events, including ASI Show, fASIlitate, fASI500 and ConneX, which foster business-building relationships among ASI distributor and supplier members. ASI Shows, the flagship series, are large-scale, in-person convention center trade shows held in Orlando, Fort Worth and Chicago. fASIlitate is a hosted buyer event that brings together the industry’s elite – top suppliers and million-dollar distributors – for three days of scheduled one-on-one meetings in select hotels across the country. fASI500 is a hosted buyer event that connects highly sought-after suppliers with distributors who sell over half a million dollars annually in the promotional products industry. ConneX is a 3.5-day hosted buyer event featuring one-on-one meetings between elite suppliers and top distributors and a half-day Expo. Visit for more information on the full event portfolio.