Under The Big Top: Transforming A Ballroom Into A Circus for 1,000+ Guests

May 6, 2024

When Usher took the stage on Sun., Feb. 11, at the 2024 Super Bowl halftime show at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Show Manager Ashley Van Der Stuyf was one of 129.3 million people who tuned in to watch the performance. Once she took a look at the elaborate staging and production, she understood why the NFL canceled the association’s contract to host a party at the venue scheduled for less than a month before the big game.

But it wasn’t an easy pill to swallow when she got the news on Nov. 8, about 60 days out from the Ultimate Tailgate Party the association had planned and sold tickets and sponsorship for already.


Context: PPAI produces an annual trade show each January for the $25 billion U.S. promotional products industry. In 2024, the PPAI Expo 2024 drew 16,000 industry professionals to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. Nearly 1,000 exhibiting companies filled more than a quarter-million net square feet of exhibit space.

Backstory: As part of the expo, each year the association hosts what they tout as the biggest party in the promotional products industry. PPAI had been planning to host this year’s shindig on Jan. 17 at Allegiant Stadium, the home of Super Bowl 58 on Feb. 11. The association signed a contract with the stadium, but the NFL had the right to cancel that contract up to 60 days out. 

Looking back: By early November, about 700 people had already purchased tickets to the party, about half of the tickets PPAI planned to sell. But on Nov. 8, the NFL and Allegiant Stadium informed the expo staff that Usher’s Super Bowl halftime performance would result in a cancellation. 

Deeper dive: The PPAI team had no choice but to pivot and come up with another venue and a new theme. We sat down with Van Der Stuyf to find out how her team selected a new venue and started from scratch in planning a party for 1,000+ in 60 days, during the critical eight weeks before the massive trade show.


Read highlights from our conversation or watch or listen to the full conversation here.

Allegiant Stadium Contract: The contract with Allegiant Stadium for PPAI's event had a clause allowing the NFL to cancel it up to 60 days before the event.

Last-Minute Change: Due to Usher's Super Bowl halftime performance, PPAI had to find a new venue and theme just 60 days before the event.

Quick Pivot: PPAI had to pivot swiftly, exploring new venues and pitching ideas to the executive team within a week of notification.

Choosing a Venue: Despite initial hesitation, PPAI chose Mandalay Bay ballroom for its convenience and potential bump in attendance.

Theme Selection: The theme "Vintage Cirque Meets Circus" was inspired by the film, The Greatest Showman, reflecting the event's grandeur.


Budget Allocation: The majority of the budget went into transforming the ballroom, particularly focused on drapery and creating a unique atmosphere.

Collaboration with Event Production: Working closely with Mandalay Bay’s event production team was a new experience for PPAI, requiring trust and collaboration.

Attendee Turnout: The event attracted around 1,000 attendees, exceeding expectations despite the last-minute changes.

Positive Feedback: Attendees and exhibitors praised the event's unique theme, entertainment acts and overall experience, leading to high satisfaction.

Sponsorship and Ticket Handling: PPAI reallocated sponsorships and offered options to ticket holders, maintaining positive relations and mitigating losses effectively.

Want to know more? Read Pure Panic Mode: How The PPAI Expo Party Averted Disaster





Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE, listen to our latest podcast HERE and engage with us on LinkedIn!

Add new comment

Expert Profile
Partner Voices
One of the most iconic names on the Las Vegas Strip just got an upgrade. Mandalay Bay has everything that your business needs from a refreshed convention space designed to inspire productivity and creativity, to an impressive selection of world-class restaurants and amenities. If you're looking for a venue that's both inviting and innovative, you have to be here.   New Wave Experiences Mandalay Bay continues to invest in a new wave of enhancements both in the convention space and within the resort as a whole. New restaurant openings including Orla by Michael Mina, more