Awards and Recognition Association

Awards and Recognition Association

The Awards and Recognition Association, commonly referred to as ARA, is a trade association whose membership consists of retailers and suppliers of awards, trophies, plaques or components of those items. The organization was established to promote the general welfare of the awards industry, the improvement of business methods within the industry, good fellowship and friendly relationships within the industry; and to establish educational services to its members. The association also seeks to promote the use and benefits of quality recognition products to the general public. ARA is a non-profit mutual benefit corporation organized under the Nonprofit Mutual Benefit Corporation Law of the State of California.

Membership in the association is open to retailers, branches of retail members, suppliers, branches of supplier members, and affiliates of the awards and recognition industry subject to the membership policies laid out in the association’s bylaws. Applicants may also apply for honorary membership.


The Awards and Recognition Association (ARA), known as the Trophy Dealers and Manufacturers Association (TDMA) until 1993, has its roots in two separate associations: the Trophy Dealers of America (TDA) and American Awards Manufacturers Association (AAMA).

The Trophy Dealers of America was incorporated on April 26, 1967 in California. The organization originally brought together 12 dealers and one supplier; each contributing $100 toward organizational costs. Membership was centered on the West coast of the United States. On March 1-3, 1974, it organized the industries’ first "trophies only” trade show in San Diego, CA. The American Awards Manufacturers Association (AAMA) was started in 1977 by a group of awards manufacturers with its membership centered in the Midwestern portion of the United States. On January 5, 1980 TDA was merged with AAMA to become the Trophy Dealers and Manufacturers Association (TDMA). The merger was the first step in establishing a national association for the awards industry with equal representation on the board for dealers and manufacturers.

Three major trade shows were held during the association’s first year: the Sixth Annual Western Conference and Exhibit in San Jose, CA; and the first Eastern and Midwestern Shows in Cherry Hill, NJ, and in Chicago, IL. During the 1980’s a number of TDMA programs and member benefits were established including: a Buyer’s Guide of supplier member products, an agreement to provide a subscription to The Engravers Journal to all members, the Dun and Bradstreet Commercial Collections service, a Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance plan and an awards program to recognize leaders in the industry. In 1983, the association’s annual winter trade show was moved to Las Vegas, NV. From 1982 to 1983 TDMA more than doubled its membership to encompass more than 1,250 active members and by 1988, membership grew to 3,640 businesses. In 1993 TDMA moved its headquarters to Chicago and announced its new name: the Awards and Recognition Association.


The Awards and Recognition Association is run by a Board of Directors elected by the association’s membership. The election process begins by a selection of nominees by the ARA nominating committee. After the Board approves the nominees, they are voted on by members in good standing. The President as of February, 2008 is Cathy Garcia of Plastic Dress Up Co. in South El Monte, CA. Eight committees, whose members are appointed by the Board of Directors, also assist in the operations of the association. These committees are: Awards, Communications, Education, Finance, Membership, Nominating, Trade Show and Executive.

The International Awards Market

The International Awards Market is the association’s biggest annual event, typically drawing up to 5,000 people from almost 2,000 retail companies. The trade show has been held annually in Las Vegas, NV since 1983. It is designed for awards, engraving, and sublimation specialists but also attracts buyers from several other industries, including the signage, rubber stamp, marking, and gift industries. Suppliers and manufacturers use this opportunity to showcase their newest products and meet face to face with buyers. All attendees are carefully screened to ensure they are qualified awards retail buyers. In addition, the association offers a number of general business and industry specific education sessions during the show. It is generally held in February.

Recognition Review

Recognition Review is the association’s monthly publication. It seeks to provide ongoing industry and business education to its readers. It also spotlights industry trends and showcases industry products. Each month it publishes technical advice related to the awards and recognition industry and general business.

Member Benefits

In addition to promoting the welfare of the awards industry, ARA offers a variety of benefits to its members. Benefits to retail members include: free admission to ARA shows, a Recognition Review subscription, reduced educational session fees, access to the membership directory, access to a comprehensive online Buyer’s Guide of supplier member products, access to special discounts offered by supplier members, access to a panel of industry experts that assist product location and access to industry information through the association website. It also offers members access to a number of business services such as shipping, health insurance and payroll services through affiliated national suppliers. Benefits to supplier members include discounts on exhibiting at ARA shows, free admission to ARA shows, discounts on advertising through the association, a Recognition Review subscription, access to the membership directory and a Buyer’s Guide listing and use of the product locater service.

External Links []

Washington State University's Alex Brink Named Winner of 2007 ARA Sportsmanship Award []

AllBusiness Article: You Better Recognize []

NY Times Article: Downstage From the Oscars, Awards for the Awards []

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