By Barry Janoff
March 13, 2017: Kevin Harvick is 41, 5-foot-ten, born in Bakersfield, Calif., and has been driving professionally for Nascar since 1995, and with Stewart-Haas Racing since 2014.
Dikembe Mutombo is 50, 7-foot-2, born in Leopoldville, DR Congo, and played in the NBA for 18 seasons, retiring in 2009 and then was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.
So it was only natural for Mobil 1 to pair the two men in a multi-platform ad campaign, "Tremendously Odd Couple," to support the launch of Mobil 1 Annual Protection motor oil.
The premise is based on Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple about mismatched roommates, neat-freak Felix Unger and slobby Oscar Madison, of stage, screen (Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, respectively, in 1968) and TV (Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, respectively, 1970-75, with a reboot currently airing on CBS) fame.
Here, Harvick (as Unger) and Mutombo (as Madison) bicker over a variety of things — cooking, sleeping, ironing — but agree on one thing: Because of Mobil 1 Annual Protection motor oil, drivers do not have to change the oil in their cars one full year or up to 20,000 miles (whichever comes first).
The tag line: "Don’t change your oil . . . for one full year."
In reality, the mashup of the two is relatively organic. Mobil 1 is in its 15th season as the official motor oil of Nascar and its second as the official motor oil of the NBA, and both have established themselves as Hall of Fame athletes in their respective sports.
"It’s a fun, cool campaign to support an exciting new product," Harvick said in a statement. "Mobil 1 has been a mainstay in the garage for years, and our team relies on their lubricants and technology to compete each weekend on the race track. In part, this product is a result of our race-day testing."
According to Mutombo, "It was quite the unique experience to learn more about Nascar and work with Kevin. Mobil 1 is one of the most recognizable and respected brands in the world, and it is an honor to help launch this new product with them."
However, the premise of the "Tremendously Odd Couple" is odder than the pairing of Harvick and Mutombo.
In ads, digital and social media, they are both miniature, 3-inch-siazed versions of themselves, living as roommates in an engine that includes the trappings of an apartment.
In the intro ad, "Dikembe Says Don’t Change Your Oil," guy opens the hood of his car to change his oil. Miniature Harvick admonishes him, saying that he wouldn’t have to change his oil after 3,000 miles if he used Mobil 1 Annual Protection. Breaking the fourth wall, the guy asks Harvick, "Why are your three inches tall?" Mutombo then appears. "What, you don’t like short people?!"
Harvick goes solo in "One Year, One Oil Change," confronting a guy about to change the oil in his car. They then get into a discussion as to why Harvick is three inches tall but the guy isn’t.
In their engine apartment, Harvick is in a recliner taking a "Snooze" when Mutombo pops up. "Kevin, are you changing your oil? Don’t change your oil before its time . . . even in your dreams."
"Kevin, are you changing your oil?" "No, Dikembe, I’m ironing your pants." "Don’t change your oil before its time. And don’t burn my pants, either."
"Pants" finds Mutombo is in the recliner. "Kevin, are you changing your oil?" "No, Dikembe, I’m ironing your pants." "Don’t change your oil before its time," says Mutombo. "And don’t burn my pants, either."
In "Spaghetti," the two are having dinner in the engine apartment. Mutombo asks Harvick, "Are you changing your oil?" "No,” says Harvick, "I’m eating spaghetti." "Don’t change your oil before its time," insists Motumbo. "I’m eating spaghetti,” Harvick replies again. "Don’t change your oil while eating spaghetti," says Mutombo.
On the track, the Mobil 1 Annual Protection brand will serve as the primary sponsor for one race for each of the four SHR entries: Harvick’s No. 4 Ford at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March 12), Danica Patrick’s No. 10 Ford at Bristol Motor Speedway (April 23), Kurt Busch’s No. 41 Ford at Richmond International Raceway (April 29) and Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford at Kansas Speedway (May 13).
ExxonMobil said it would support the ad campaign and primary sponsorships with unique digital content throughout the 2017 season, "including features of SHR team co-owner Tony Stewart navigating his first year in full-time management with Harvick, Patrick, Busch and Bowyer along for the ride."
Since retiring, Mutombo has spent much of his time in humanitarian efforts, including raising awareness and funds for the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation. In September 2006, he led the funding and logistics to build and open the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, named for for his late mother, located near his hometown, the Congolese capital of Kinshasa.
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