Does adding Twitter to a brand make it cooler?

Lorenzo's "Twitter bike"

Jorge Lorenzo is on top of the world right now. He’s a 23-year-old motorbike racer from Mallorca in Spain and is atop the standings in the MotoGP circuit (he won yesterday’s race in Laguna Seca by several seconds, too). But he has a problem. Teammate Valentino Rossi has a better brand. Mostly because Rossi is older, has won season after season, and has cultivated thousands of fans. When I saw Rossi speak last year at Indianapolis fans were literally crying for a chance to touch him. Seriously. Most of us have never seen celebrity like this close up. Photo of Lorenzo’s Twitter sign on his bike taken by my producer Rocky Barbanica — we got a tour yesterday of his pits and got a chance to see the Twitter bike up close and personal. More of my photos are up on Flickr.

#1 MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo

But the MotoGP sport has a problem. If Rossi can’t race anymore, like he couldn’t for a month this year because he broke his leg, ticket sales go down. A lot.

#1 MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo

So, the Fiat/Yamaha team is trying something new: Twitter.

While Rossi disdains talking with fans online, Lorenzo welcomes it. Posting photos, doing his own tweets, and meeting with fans one-on-one which, over time, will make him a world-wide brand. He also does things to get his Twitter fans to talk, like after the race yesterday he donned a space suit and re-enacted man’s landing on the moon at the top of Laguna Seca’s famous corkscrew turns (last week was the anniversary of the moon landing). Photo by Umberto Schiavella.

Laguna Seca - Race

But he pushes it further than any other racer on the MotoGP circuit and is including Twitter on his bike (Twitter gets this exposure for free, unlike other sponsors on his bike) and even holding up signs after races asking fans to follow him on Twitter.

Yes, the sport is also using other technologies, like small TV cameras to get fans at home into the race, but every racer is doing that.

Lorenzo's video camera

Only Lorenzo is really using Twitter in any big way on the track.

I’m noticing this with more and more brands: they are using Twitter to get an edge on their competition in the branding war — I’m seeing more and more “follow us on Twitter signs” in restaurants, malls, and even amusement parks. Are you noticing this too? Question is, does adding Twitter to a brand make it cooler?

To me it does.

Why?

1. It sends a signal to the world that you want to hear from your customers.
2. It sends a signal to the world that you’ll use the latest technology to communicate with them. Many of whom are no longer using email. My son, for instance, rarely uses email to communicate with his friends.
3. It lets you feature your customers. Notice the pictures on Lorenzo’s bike? They are his fans on Twitter. Win-win.
4. It gives your team a way to communicate in one stream all the photos and stuff.
5. It lets you bridge audiences around the world. Look at how he mixes Spanish and English together on Tweets.

"Follow Me on Twitter" Banner

But what do you think? What are you seeing the bleeding edge brands doing today to find more customers and build more brand loyalty? I wonder what Chris Brogan would say?

Oh, and it wasn’t lost on the team that about 100 people were checked in at the track on Foursquare. How long before Foursquare has some involvement with race and sports brands? I give it a few hours the way Foursquare’s business developer Tristan Walker has been working lately.

Finally, just in case, they are on Flickr at lorenzo99 and has an old-school website plus a Facebook fan page. But the team tells me that Lorenzo likes Twitter the best. He even wants to visit Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco to meet his hero, Evan Williams. I bet he gets that dream. Something about him tells me he’s going to be someone we’ll hear from for a long time to come.

#1 MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo