By  on January 5, 2012

Gap Inc. has stepped up the marketing of its Athleta division to support a heady growth plan.

The campaign, called “Power to the She,” is Athleta’s first integrated national marketing effort. It hit the Athleta Web site Wednesday, and involves e-mail, social media, Athleta catalogues landing in mailboxes this week, and new imagery in the nine Athleta stores. A 10th store is opening in Scarsdale, N.Y., in two weeks, and the goal is to have 50 units operating in 2013, though the struggling Gap Inc. is reducing the square footage on its other divisions across the U.S.

The campaign will also be featured in February magazines including Women’s Running, Runner’s World, O, The Oprah Magazine, InStyle and Sports Illustrated. Sponsorships of a Yoga Journal talent search and Iron Girl events, as well as partnerships with the Girls on the Run organization which helps third to seventh graders build self-esteem through running, and Pandora, the music streaming Web site, are part of the marketing push.

Despite the campaign’s provocative tag line, the intent is not to sound feminist, but rather to celebrate women who balance raising a family with work and working out, according to Tess Roering, Athleta’s vice president of marketing and creative. “Athleta customers want to do it all — they lead extremely active and busy lives,” said Roering. “This is certainly not a nonpositive for men. It’s just feminine.”

Minneapolis-based agency Peterson Milla Hooks and Athleta’s in-house team created the campaign. Ads feature a photo of an athletic woman as the focal point, stretching or in a yoga pose. On the side of the ads are narratives, or lists of motivational words or phrases capturing life’s journey. For example, one ad says, “Be still. Be strong. Clean your karma. Check you chakras” and continues on. Another says: “Get Born. Find a group. Find a job. Find the one,” and goes on from there.

Roering declined to say how much Gap is spending on “Power to the She,” but said it was the most ever for the brand. Athleta, Gap’s answer to Lululemon and Nike, specializes in women’s apparel and accessories for yoga, running, swim, tennis, golf, gym, hiking and skiing. Athleta was founded as a catalogue in 1998, added a Web site in 2000 and was purchased by Gap in 2008 for $150 million. Athleta is based in Petaluma, Calif. Gap Inc. is based in San Francisco.

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