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47-Year Industry Vet Marty Burke Retires

Marty Burke retired July 1, 2021, from Marco Awards Group, having created countless treasured relationships with retailers and suppliers alike during his 47 years in the awards and personalization industry.

47-Year Industry Vet Marty Burke Retires

Marco Sales Rep Helped Create ARIEF as Association President

Marty Burke retired July 1, 2021, from Marco Awards Group, having created countless treasured relationships with retailers and suppliers alike during his 47 years in the awards and personalization industry.

“I started in this business using a pantograph machine,” Burke has told the Awards and Personalization Association. “I then moved onto a typewriter engraver, sublimation, and now the laser engraver.”

47 Years in the Industry

Burke joined the industry in 1974, when he was in high school. He worked on the retail side before moving into distribution and then distribution/manufacturing. He was always moving and growing. “I had multiple retail stores from 1974 through 1994. I started a wholesale warehouse in Dallas, TX, in 1992. I opened another one in Houston in 1997 and purchased and moved one in Orlando to a larger location in 2000.”

He owned Liberty Supply, a Texas distributor that sold awards and components to retailers. Then, in 2006, he accepted a job with Marco Awards Group and became the awards giant’s first sales representative in his territory of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

His hiring at Marco was praised by retailers who had had the pleasure of working with him through Liberty Supply and the Awards and Personalization Association. He used his background as a retailer and distributor to assist his customers—who he considered business partners.

“I really don’t try to ‘sell’ the store’s product. I just show it, discuss how best the store owner can market it, and the product usually sells itself,” he said. “If I hear of a good tip to help the retailer, I pass it along. Anything that I can do to help the store increase its business is good for all of us.”

He built up the territory “on thousands of miles traveled,” Marco reported, and collaborated with his coworkers “at trade shows, sales meetings, and on the road to bring sales success to Marco.”

“Marty—as Marco’s number 1 sales representative in his territory of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi—was the inspiration for Marco’s growth and prosperity and a true example of success,” said Gregory Kolenut, Marco’s national sales manager.

Burke built up his territory “on thousands of miles traveled,” according to Marco, and collaborated with his coworkers “at trade shows, sales meetings, and on the road to bring sales success to Marco.”

Association Service

If those industry chops weren’t enough, Burke also has been active in the Awards and Personalization Association for years, leaving a huge legacy here as well. Burke served on the board and became president of the association—then the Awards and Recognition Association—in February 2002. (His president-elect, Fran Carville, would later be one of his customers when her home state of Louisiana became part of his Marco sales territory.) The theme of his presidency was Racing into the Future.

Burke ushered in many positive changes, including complimentary association magazine subscriptions for supplier member sales representatives, but his most lasting impact on our association was the creation of the Awards and Recognition Industry Educational Foundation (ARIEF).

Separate and distinct from the association, ARIEF provides financial assistance to advance education for industry members. ARIEF was Burke’s vision: a foundation to award scholarships to association-affiliated students and to raise the awareness of careers in the awards and personalization industry. Burke worked tirelessly to make ARIEF a reality: soliciting Cornerstone Donors, establishing the Board of Trustees, developing bylaws, and serving as ARIEF president in the nonprofit’s first 2 years. In addition to courting suppliers for large donations to the new effort, Burke challenged his association Board of Directors to each donate $1,000 and opened his own wallet to help the foundation.

Since that time, the nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization has awarded financial assistance of $500–$1,000 to nearly 100 students who were directly affiliated with association member companies (as an employee or the child or grandchild of an employee). Each of those students has Burke to thank for his mission and vision.

It’s no wonder that Burke has been recognized by the association with five Gold Obelisk awards, including the one he received when he was inducted into the Awards and Personalization Association Hall of Fame in 2017.

“Serving as president in 2002 was a great time of personal growth,” Burke told Insights magazine in 2011. “I could have never imagined myself in front of a room full of people giving a speech. I was blessed with a great Board of Directors and management team, and we overcame many obstacles that hit us right after 9/11. Despite some challenges during that time period, the support of everyone on that board was great. … It’s been gratifying to watch ARIEF grow and how much everyone has contributed to its success. We are helping our next generation. Thanks to everyone for their time, support, and tax-deductible donations!”

Marty Burke’s Gold Obelisk Awards

2001 President’s Award

2003 Founders Award

2004 President’s Award

2010-11 Sales Representative of the Year

2016-17 Hall of Fame

 

At Full Speed

Life won’t slow down for Burke in his retirement. His love of cars and racing will keep him behind the wheel at top speeds! His business Marty Burke Motorsports (martyburkemotorsports.com) in Leonard, TX, is already receiving much more of his attention.

“I can’t believe it’s been 47 years since Marty stepped into the awards business,” said Marco President and CEO Marcel Bizier. “Truth be known, I have just a few years on him. I will miss him.”

Though Burke will be greatly missed by his colleagues, Marco employees urge him to “enjoy, relax, and be safe as you carve out another lifetime of fun.”

Awards and Personalization Association

The Awards and Personalization Association is the organization for retailers and suppliers of personalized and customized items. By providing education, meetings, and access to a vibrant network of professionals, the Awards and Personalization Association is the one place to ensure the growth of your talent, your business, and your professional community.

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