Fan-inspired jersey for Tanjong Pagar United FC

The Queenstown-based club have turned to their supporters to design the club's jersey for the 2013 season, becoming the first local club in S.League history to do so
By Bhas Kunju
Chief Editor, Singapore

THORB, the apparel sponsors of Tanjong Pagar United have added a new dimension to supporters outreach in the local football scene.

While in discussion with the Jaguars over renewing their sponsorship for the next S.league season, the two parties struck up the idea of a new jersey design competition that would involve supporters.

"During our first season (2010) with the club, we trawled the web and forums to try and keep ourselves in touch with the ground to hear what the fans wanted and were saying," said Kristian Thorbjornsen, Managing Director of THORB.

"We noticed that older/past fans of TPUFC were unhappy that we didn't keep to the original Red/White stripes design that had been acquainted with the club for the longest time. So in 2011, we had time to sort that out and bring back the famed red/white stripes.
"For clubs that have stripes as their club's signature, designs can be pretty limited. The changes are not a lot from year to year simply because the stripes take the lead in the overall design. To show that 2013's design would be different, we thought it would be a great idea for fans to have a say in the look and create engagement that's been lacking.

"It would be a good way for THORB and TPUFC to show fans that we're here and listening to what they want. Afterall, the fans are the most important people in the club."

Thorbjornsen emphasised that the competition was always designed to include fans and give them a more active role and stake in the club.

"The inclusion of fans was always in both the club's and THORB's mind," he added.

"These are the people that we need to take care of the most. These are the people we need to listen and respond to, because without them, the club and THORB would be nothing.

"For the longest time, everyone has been talking about engaging fans but what really has been done differently?
"Besides the usual roadshows at the heartland malls, fan club gatherings, how else could we bring them in and let them have a stake in the club? When we thought of having this design competition, the immediate thought was the fans. They could help design something for their beloved team and this could truly be something unique to the league. The fans would have a voice."

Hosted on the club's official Facebook page, the competition has received good response from supporters with the organisers spoilt for choice.

"The response has been fantastic!" Thorbjornsen told Singapore.

"We've had about 45 designs come in and some of them are really good. We had a hard time narrowing it down to the last 10!
"The online voting has already closed and we've generated almost 650 "likes" and numerous comments about the designs that have come in. I think some fans are really excited about some of the designs."

Although relatively new to the scene, Thorbjonsen has declared his ambitions for the brand to grow and become the flagship sports brand in Singapore.

"We want to be what Mizuno is to Japan or what Nike is to the USA, for Singapore to have its own internationally recognised Sports brand," added the former HDB estates office, who has a Norwegian father and Singaporean Chinese mother.
"Through such initiatives, we are building our brand awareness and growing our market locally. We've always been about being aware of the local markets - its needs and wants. 
"Of course, we hope that through such an initiative [of running the jersey design competition] , we can reach out to more Singaporeans who don't know THORB and hopefully, give them that little push to find out more about us.
With the competition now down to the voting stages for the winning design, Thorbjornsen revealed that there were definitely more such plans in the works : "Whatever programs TPUFC has, we've always done our best to support. We do share ideas and whenever feasible, we execute such plans together."

"Fan engagement is crucial to the S.League and more needs to be done, so we will definitely be exploring other such initiatives!"