NASCAR

Bluffton's Royal Teak Collection to sponsor Nemechek's 87 at Darlington

mmccombs@islandpacket.comMay 8, 2013 

Longtime NASCAR team owner Jay Robinson said that as long as he's been in racing, there is no "usual way" for a team to land a sponsor.

But he admitted you typically don't expect it to happen the way it did for the No. 87 Sprint Cup car, driven by Joe Nemechek.

"I met him at our transporter at the Daytona 500," Robinson said. "He just walked up and introduced himself."

By him, Robinson means Claus Villebro, president and CEO of Bluffton-based Royal Teak Collection, a manufacturer of premium patio and casual furniture.

Royal Teak Collection will be the primary sponsor for Nemechek's No. 87 Toyota Camry for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Darlington.

According to Villebro, Royal Teak Collection came to an agreement last week with NEMCO-Jay Robinson Racing, the race team owned by driver Joe Nemechek and his family and Robinson. Villebro said he had been involved with Richard Childress Racing in the past but couldn't come to an agreement.

"I'm pretty excited about the deal," Villebro said.

According to Robinson, there was initially talk about Royal Teak Collection doing some associate sponsorships, but over the course of a couple of months it progressed to the primary sponsor for the race in Villebro's home state.

Villebro said the sponsorship costs more than his company would usually pay for advertising.

"It's way beyond that," said Villebro, who did not disclose a dollar amount. "You can't get into Sprint Cup for peanuts these days."

Villebro admitted the exposure for Royal Teak Collection would be huge should Joe Nemechek win the Southern 500. But he holds no illusions.

"That would be humongous," Villebro said. "But let's face it. One of the reasons we can afford to sponsor Joe Nemechek is that he's no Kyle Busch or Jimmie Johnson."

While Nemechek does have four career Sprint Cup wins, his last victory came in 2004 and the team's average finish this season is 36th.

Robinson said the real reason behind the sponsorship is to promote the Royal Teak Collection website, RoyalTeakCollection.com. The sponsorship includes an activation plan designed to drive traffic to the website and drive retail traffic through press releases, email blasts and showing the cars at events.

"We want to put that brand name out there and get that message to as many people as possible," Robinson said.

Villebro said there would be an email blast going out as soon as Wednesday to more than a million recipients.

"If one percent of those people respond," Villebro joked, "we're in a lot of trouble. But it'll be good trouble."

There is a possibility it won't be the last time the company's name graces the No. 87. Villebro and Robinson say there have been discussions about a future relationship, but nothing is concrete.

"We've got to look at the return on our investment," Villebro said. "If it pays off, we're on again."

In the meantime, Villebro is leaving Thursday for Darlington, where he'll have dinner with members of the team, and then spend some time in the garage area before Saturday night, when he'll pull for the driver known as Front Row Joe to pull off an upset like David Ragan did Sunday at Talladega.

"Who knows, it could happen," Villebro said.

Details: royalteakcollection.com, www.joenemechek.com

Southern 500

6:30 p.m. Saturday, Darlington Raceway, Darlington

TV: WTGS (Fox)

Details: www.NASCAR.com, www.darlingtonraceway.com

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