A Racer's Lost Helmet Stars in a Brazilian Social-Media Scavenger Hunt

The Stunt Played out on ESPN, Twitter and YouTube on Behalf of a Philips Formula One Driver

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Formula 1 racing is a major sport in Brazil, and this month Brazilian fans had a chance to participate in a virtual race conducted mostly on Twitter and YouTube to find the lucky helmet belonging to a well-known international driver.

A video of Nico Rosberg, a driver for Formula 1's AT&T Williams team, announced that he had lost his lucky helmet when he arrived in Brazil and couldn't face racing in Brazil's Formula 1 on Oct. 18 without it, appeared on ESPN's site in Brazil and then on YouTube.

"The idea was to connect social networks with storytelling, with intense audience participation," said Abel Reis, president of Sao Paulo-based digital shop Agencia Click, part of Aegis Group. And to make the Philips brand, a sponsor of Formula 1's AT&T Williams team, stand out without spending much money.

Mr. Rosberg is known for his unusual headgear "so it's not impossible to believe he'd miss his helmet," Mr. Reis said. Mr. Rosberg -- or rather a ghost tweeter at Agencia Click -- tweeted a series of messages and clues urging Brazilians to hunt for the helmet. To help the searchers, Mr. Rosberg revealed on Twitter that his helmet was equipped with a camera that would film its whereabouts. For several days, Brazilians tracked the helmet through online videos as it was driven around in a leisurely tour of easily-recognizable Sao Paulo landmarks such as the local art museum and a couple soccer stadiums. Videos were posted on YouTube and on a page within ESPN's Brazil site called sigaocapacete.com, which means "Follow That Helmet" in Portuguese.

As Mr. Rosberg collected 4,700 followers on Twitter, searchers closed in on the helmet, found in a car bearing the Philips logo. Brazilians who happened upon the helmet filled out forms with their contact details and wrote a sentence about Formula 1 that had to include the words "Philips" and "Nico Rosberg." Twelve of them won Philips merchandise such as TVs and MP3 players, and tickets to the Formula 1 race.

Someone set up a fake Twitter profile purporting to be the helmet.
Someone set up a fake Twitter profile purporting to be the helmet.
Outside Brazil, Formula 1 bloggers in the U.S., Japan, the U.K. and other countries picked up and spread the story of the lost helmet.

Always early adopters of anything new, Brazilians have embraced Twitter. Although Mr. Reis said he only has about 300 followers himself, Brazilian celebrities often have more than 200,000. Brazilian singer Ivete Sangalo, for instance, has more than 300,000 followers on Twitter, he said.

At one point, someone set up a fake Twitter profile purporting to be the helmet.

"It was talking about the experience of being lost, from the helmet's perspective," Mr. Reis said. "We don't know who it was."

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