Conceived during lockdown by dad Matt Wilson and his daughter Veda and produced in conjunction with KI (Kids Industries), Aniballers is a football training app for kids aged 3–6 that teaches ball skills in a fun and unique way. LicensingSource.net sat down with Matt and KI’s ceo and co-founder Gary Pope to hear more about the brand and its potential for licensing.
Matt Wilson is passionate about encouraging children to get active. “We live in a world where an alarming number of children suffer from obesity and mental health problems like depression,” he says. “Sports participation is proven to boost mental and physical health as well as teach essential life skills. Aniballers is aimed at helping parents teach and motivate their kids to build confidence and healthy habits.”
Matt’s idea for a football training app arose during lockdown, when he spent a lot of time playing outdoors with his daughter Veda (now six), and trying to teach her ball skills proved tougher than he’d imagined. “It was hard to explain some of the concepts to her,” Matt admits. “So, I devised little games using animals as a reference point, to make learning fun and more accessible for her.” The idea took root and grew, KI came on board as the technical and creative brains behind the app, and in April this year the beta version of Aniballers was made available to play for free on Android and Apple devices.
“We reached 27 in the sports category on the app store and have had over 1,000 downloads,” Matt says. “Our social channels offer tips and inspiration to parents of young kids and have over 200k followers.”
Aniballers features six animated animal characters in a colourful world that take kids along a gamified training journey. The animation is interspersed with video clips of real kids in a 3D rendered brand world setting presenting drills, and AR-filters so kids can feel immersed in the game. The app includes 50 unique challenges suitable for indoor and outdoor play developed by UEFA-approved coaches, and follows EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) key developmental learning areas so kids – and parents – can “feel like they have a football coach in their pocket”.
Matt believes Aniballers is a truly unique proposition. “Aniballers is different in that it teaches kids football skills and techniques, such as dribbling and drag backs, via storytelling and technology. There is nothing like it. It is fun for kids and a tool for busy parents to make play time more structured and productive.”
The app is very much a family affair. Veda’s input was invaluable, Matt says, while her mum is the voice on the app. “Aniballers is by a family, for families, so it seemed natural to partner with KI, the family agency, for the development of the app,” Matt explains. “They also demonstrated a true understanding of this market and shared valuable insights into children and families throughout the entire creative process.”
Gary Pope expands: “The potential of Aniballers is inspiring. Using some pretty nifty tech to really put the kids in the game will engage and delight and give families lots of lovely shared active moments together. Franchises emerge from any touchpoint these days so, working with Matt, Veda and his team, we’ve thought long and hard about where the brand might go in the very near future.”
Matt (and Veda) are keen to extend Aniballers into brand licensing, believing it has potential for football kit and training aids, collectible toys, books, animation, and much more. “We feel we sit well in a number of categories,” says Matt. “Veda is very passionate about Aniballers comics appearing on the news stand!”
As befits a father-daughter brand, Aniballers features plenty of female role models, which has led to a partnership between Aniballers and #HerGameToo, the Premier League club backed campaign to champion women in sport.
“We have female characters and feature three young female ball experts in the app and want to contribute to empowering female role models to young girls and boys,” says Matt. “One of our investors is famous influencer Stevo the Mad Man who has a Snapchat Originals series called Stevo the Dad Man. His daughter Erin is five and will be doing some challenges on socials.”
Both Matt and Veda are, unsurprisingly “very excited” for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and are looking forward to seeing where Aniballers heads in the future. “We want to help other parents teach their kids to learn football drills and skills, and just generally be more active in a way that’s fun for them,” concludes Matt. “Wesee Aniballers as a great brand for young girls – and boys – starting their football journey.”
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