More than 330 franchisees operating in 34 countries. Classes attended by over 70,000 children a week. When it comes to franchising, soccer concept Little Kickers is in a league of its own
When it comes to franchising awards, it could be said that the Global Franchise Champion accolade is akin to the World Cup, so it’s only fitting that an educational soccer program took the top prize at this year’s Global Franchise Awards 2020 ceremony held at the International Franchise Association 2020 conference in Orlando, Florida.
Little Kickers is an educational soccer – or ‘football’, depending on where you’re based – program which was designed to provide children aged one-and-a-half to seven years old a fun and positive introduction to sport while promoting the development of fundamental early learning skills such as color and number recognition, sharing and taking turns.
This award gives us the confidence to continue to take bold steps to move the business forward”
Founded in London, England in 2002, Little Kickers was established because Lukas, founder Christine Kelly’s son, adored football, however, at the age of two, there was nowhere for him to go to learn how to play it. “The brand evolved through a ‘play not push’ philosophy,” explains Christine, who is now chair of the operation. “Kids who participated in the program were encouraged to have fun rather than be overly competitive footballers. We saw a niche in helping children to develop early learning skills – for instance: color and number recognition; sharing; taking turns; following instructions – through our classes, and the business has evolved from there.”
And Little Kickers has well and truly kicked on since. In 2004, the decision was made to start franchising the business – by 2005 there were 25 franchisees signed up in the U.K. “From there, we continued to develop in the U.K., and also sold masters and units into a variety of countries,” says Christine. “In 2013, we developed an English language progam for the Brazilian market, where we use the Little Kickers program to also teach kids English. We now operate in over 40 cities in Brazil and the Little Kickers program has grown into multiple other non-Anglophone markets, including Spain, Chile, China, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.”
For Christine, the relationships with franchisees are absolutely critical. The brand goes to great lengths to take on franchisees who share the organization’s core values – this helps to establish a vision to work together on a long term basis. “In international markets, we tread a fine line between ensuring the core processes and procedures which form the basis of our franchise model are followed as closely as possible and respecting key social and cultural differences in these markets. This is always much easier when we’re working with people who have the same values.”