Austin ad agency comes to the Alamo's rescue

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by Brian Gaar

Last year, M.P. Mueller read that the Alamo needed help designing a logo.

Not the Alamodome. Not Alamo Rent A Car. The real Alamo.

So Mueller, who is president of Austin advertising agency Door Number 3, called the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the nonprofit group that operates the historic landmark in San Antonio.

Their response surprised her.

“They said, ’Everybody’s been using our brand, and we don’t have a brand,’” she said.

Hard to believe, but true: The Alamo had never had a marketing campaign. It was virgin branding territory — music to an ad agency’s ears.

“Here’s one of the most well-loved icons in North America, and when we found out that there was nobody helping them with marketing, we were like, ‘Oh, my God,’” Mueller said.

So for the past year, Door Number 3 has worked — free of charge — with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to create the Alamo’s first membership drive. That included designing a logo and a full-blown campaign to drive people to the Web site (www.thealamo.org).

It’s the first time during the Daughters’ 105-year stewardship that the group has invited the public to help preserve and maintain the historic mission, said Tony Caridi, the Daughters’ director of marketing and development for the Alamo.

“It has been in the works for some time, and it’s just finally coming to fruition,” Caridi said.

The “Allies of the Alamo” membership drive will be unveiled officially Feb. 23.

Individual memberships start at $40, with proceeds to go toward preservation and maintenance. But Caridi said the group also plans to use the money to expand its education efforts, including a completely revamped Web site that will serve as an online classroom for children around the world.

Avatar re-enactors such as Davy Crockett will guide them through the site, he said.

The marketing campaign will include print ads, direct mail and outdoor advertising, among other things. Caridi said the group is looking to raise $500,000 to $800,000 during the drive’s first year and more in subsequent years.

The Alamo is a top tourist attraction, drawing 4 million visitors a year. Last year, its budget was about $5 million, almost all from gift store sales, according to news reports.

Caridi said the new campaign isn’t a response to any fiscal troubles, but rather an effort “to open up more to a vast audience of people.”

“Door Number 3 has been fantastic — and that’s an understatement ,” Caridi said.

Mueller called the landmark an archetype of heroism, courage and bravery. The membership drive seeks to remind people of those things, she said.

“It’s what we all aspire to be,” she said. “The Alamo is one of those last places that’s accessible to everybody. You can relate to it, and you can feel that sense of pride and connection.”