Racing Porsche and making hay

“We went. We raced. We almost beat frickin’ Porsche!”

That’s how Mini USA summed up its most recent viral marketing campaign on its Facebook page.

On June 6, Mini ran an ad in The New York Times challenging Porsche to a race. Jim McDowell, who heads Mini USA, also sent a personal video challenge to Detlev von Platen, CEO of Porsche Cars North America. In another video posted to Mini’s Facebook page, McDowell, addressing a photo of von Platen, repeated the challenge.

Porsche said no through an automotive blog site.

But Mini persisted, and the chatter on Facebook grew intense. Ultimately, Mini rented a Porsche 911 for a June 21 race at the Road Atlanta track in Georgia.

Come race day, Mini sprung a surprise. The race wasn’t going to take place on the track but on a special course with pylons in the parking lot that was designed -- according to posters on the Internet -- to give Mini an advantage.

Porsche won by 2 seconds.

That Porsche victory set off another round of Internet buzz on Facebook and in blogs about why Mini had bothered and questioning whether Mini really expected to win.

But that’s all missing the point.

“Once a year Mini USA does a fun, quirky activity that plays well virally,” said a Mini USA spokeswoman. “We wanted to talk to our owners and raise awareness with potential owners.”