By  on February 25, 2008

Hanesbrands Inc. appears to be on a roll despite the difficult economy.

At a time when apparel companies are pulling back on advertising and marketing, Hanesbrands is continuing to make an aggressive push for its megabrands, particularly the big names such as the $2.4 billion Hanes brand, the $1.5 billion Champion label and the $1.2 billion Playtex line. The company's annual ad budget for its portfolio of brands, which includes Bali, Barely There, Wonderbra, L'eggs and Just My Size, is in excess of $125 million, according to industry estimates.

Kevin Hall, chief marketing officer at Hanesbrands, said the company continues to invest in its largest and strongest brands in core categories such as bras, particularly Playtex bras with its "Girl Talk" TV campaign launched in September, and activewear and sports bras by Champion, a brand that has generated 10 to 20 percent sales gains over the past year. It's a category he described as "booming."

"We expect Playtex to be the turnaround brand for 2008," Hall said. "The Girl Talk ads have had very positive consumer response. Playtex may be a mature brand, but we discovered when we went back into the archives that Girl Talk was not a new idea. We just brought it back in a fresh, modern way."

The Girl Talk ads depict women wearing Playtex bras in various scenarios as they talk about their needs for comfort, fit and aesthetics in an active lifestyle.

Based on the success of TV spots in 2007 and this year on Hanes' ComfortSoft Waistband underwear for men featuring celebrities like Cuba Gooding Jr. and Michael Jordan, Hanes will unveil a new TV and national print campaign in the women's arena beginning next month through holiday with Sarah Chalke, who plays an ambitious, quirky doctor in the TV sitcom "Scrubs."

Jennifer Love Hewitt continues to be the celebrity image in ads for the highly successful Hanes All-Over Comfort Bra, which posted 18 percent sales growth in the higher media test markets nationwide last year.

As for why the company selected Chalke for its latest product launch and a "very strong media buy," Hall said, "We wanted someone America finds charming and humorous. We wanted someone to deliver product in an amusing way, but get the news established. We looked at her [TV] ratings as part of the appeal and how she connected to America, just like Cuba did."

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