Twin brothers Brandon and Bradley Deyo used a camera to highlight their basketball skills while they were in high school and posted the videos online, hoping to draw the attention of college recruiters. They ended up creating a sports site for young athletes and their fans, with backing from NBA stars Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and others.
The brothers, now 26, established the web-based channel Mars Reel in 2010 to showcase the skills of high school basketball players. Some of the best around the United States are featured in the weekly Top 10 of high school game highlights, helping to make the local players “public figures,” Brandon Deyo said.
“Other 12- to 24-year-olds are looking up to them and following them on Instagram,” he said, or following them through Mars Reel’s channels and feeds on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.
It started with an idea of showing college recruiters what the twins could do.
College hoop dreams
“My mom was a single parent,” Bradley Deyo said, “so we had to get creative.” They couldn’t afford expensive basketball camps, he said, so they bought a camera “to film our own games and … send it to colleges and see what happens.”
The brothers enrolled at the University of Maryland, but dropped out to start their business, adopting the name Mars Reel to suggest something out of this world. Today, they contract with 800 reporters and video journalists to cover games around the country and say the exposure makes a difference to prospects whose games aren’t being featured on the TV sports channels.
“If you’re in a small town like Spartanburg, South Carolina,” Bradley Deyo said, “you’re not going to have a big ESPN truck come to your game unless you’re the best thing since Lebron (James) and Michael Jordan.”
Among the athletes featured on Mars Reel is 17-year-old Zion Williamson of Spartanburg. He is rated one of the top basketball prospects in the United States.
25 million views a month
Mars Reel’s videos have 25 million online views each month, mostly on mobile devices, and in February, the brothers expanded their reach through a partnership with the USA Today Sports Media Group.
They have also created a segment that allows young athletes to share their stories, using action cameras to showcase the athletes at home, at practice and at school.
The young entrepreneurs are now expanding to college games and plan to cover football, soccer and other sports, offering millennials — those young people born in the decade before the start of the century — news about community games and local heroes.