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Brothers win car in foot race around Duluth

About 600 people competing in teams of two converged on Leif Erikson Park on Sunday afternoon, hoping to win a new car. The event was one of 27 organized by Chevrolet across the nation to launch its new economy car, the Sonic 2LT. Michael Hagen d...

Winning brothers
Brothers Matt (left) and Brian Wilson react after the Chevrolet Sonic they were directed to started, signifying that they had won the car in Sunday's Chevy Sonic Adventure. The top two teams were each placed in a car at the end of the treasure hunt, with only one car starting. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

About 600 people competing in teams of two converged on Leif Erikson Park on Sunday afternoon, hoping to win a new car.

The event was one of 27 organized by Chevrolet across the nation to launch its new economy car, the Sonic 2LT.

Michael Hagen described the event as "a high-tech treasure hunt all over Duluth."

Hagen co-founded SCVNGR, the firm that put together Sunday's marketing event along with partner Google. Participants received hints and questions via text messages or a mobile-gaming application.

"Duluth is one of the smaller markets where we've done this, but we've had incredible turnout here," Hagen said.

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Through their mobile devices, contestants were peppered with 47 questions and directed to make their way through the city, providing answers along the way. The team with the most right answers would be rewarded with the keys to a new Chevy Sonic. Participants were required to hoof it from place to place on foot, without the aid of any wheels.

Despite temperatures in the 40s and a steady rain, a drenched Tara Golden of Duluth said, "It was a lot of fun, just seeing so many people out looking for clues."

Brady Lawrence and Mark Helgeson, a couple of UMD freshmen, heard about the contest on Facebook.

Lawrence described their simple strategy: "We're going to run fast and try to spell stuff right." He acknowledged that spelling, which counted in the competition, was not his strong suit.

Josh Johnson, an owner and general manager for the Don Jonson Auto group, said Chevrolet was reaching a new audience by using social networking and technology.

"I think this is the youngest demographic Chevrolet has ever targeted, and this is what they respond to," he said.

"This car has Bluetooth and all the stuff any Gen Y person would like to have," Hagen said.

About 2ยฝ months of advance work went into Sunday's event.

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"We do a ton of research and then send in a game designer," he said. "We really try to reflect the history of a city and highlight some of its cultural landmarks."

Brothers Matt and Brian Wilson, ages 24 and 22 respectively, came out on top of the competition in Duluth and drove away a new car.

"I'm exhausted," said a grinning Matt Wilson after the victory. "We tried to go up and down the hills as little as possible, but it was still hard work. And the stupidest thing we did was skip breakfast."

The brothers will still need to scrape together the sales tax for the vehicle, which lists for $14,500. But Matt Wilson was not complaining.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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