‘Shoot For All-Stars’: Mars Reel’s Bradley And Brandon Deyo On Building A Team: Mogul Watch

Ebony Grimsley-Vaz
Written by Ebony Grimsley-Vaz

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 24: Delane Parnell

Jamarlin talks to prodigy Delane Parnell, founder and CEO of high-school esports company PlayVS, which just raised a $15M series A round.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

This is one in a Moguldom original series that shines the light on the founders featured on MogulWatch, a comprehensive list of startups that have received venture capitalist funding. Find out how much money they have received from whom, and news and data about their company. 

Twin brothers and former high school athletes Brandon and Bradley Deyo have transitioned from dominating on the basketball courts to the marketplace as founders of one of the largest high school sports-focused media companies in the U.S.

Their Los Angeles-based company, Mars Reel, focuses on 13-to-24-year-old high school and student-athletes — a niche that has been under-served by traditional sports networks like ESPN and FOX Sports.

In August, Mars Reel secured $4.7 million in a funding round with backing from Drake, Dwayne Wade and Otter Media.

High School athletes struggle to be seen by college scouts. Brandon and Bradley learned first-hand how hard it is to garner attention from the NCAA schools for scholarship and recruitment. Taking matters into their own hands, they began recording their own videos highlighting their athletic ability and providing their reels to schools. Other players in their area learned what they were doing and asked for help. They responded, quickly starting a production studio making videos for fellow student-athletes while in high school.

While they did not land a recruitment deal at college, they did lay the groundwork for their growing brand, Mars Reel. The brothers, who had been enrolled at the University of Maryland, dropped out in their sophomore year to launch their business.

Mars Reel
Mars Reel co-founders Brandon and Bradley Deyo. Photo: Mars Reel

The company began in 2010. By 2011, Brandon had received the Ernst & Young Youth Entrepreneur of the Year award. Fast forward several years. CEO Brandon and COO Bradley are helping shine light on thousands of talented young players across the country.

Graduates of tech incubator the 500 Startups’ 2016 batch, Brandon and Bradley have captured the attention, professional and financial support of investors and athletes such as Jerry Hall, founder and former CEO of Rev Software, NBA stars LeBron James, Nas, Kevin Durant, Shane Battier, actor Cedric Stewart, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins; Bruce Tuchman, former global network chief for AMC, Sundance and MGM; and lead investor Robert Hisaoka. Grammy-winning artist Drake and NBA player Dwayne Wade are recent investors.

The brothers initially produced and distributed short-form highlight videos of high school basketball players. This evolved to longer programs.

The duo has managed to capture around 25 million views across all of the Mars Reel online platforms with the launch of “Mars Reel Chronicles,” an online video series showing the daily lives of up-and-coming basketball athletes and “Life on Mars,” a documentary series profiling various athletes focused on overcoming their dreams against all odds.

Leveraging their partnership with USA Today High School Sports, Mars Reel continues to solidify not only its future but those of the athletes it features.

The Deyos spoke to Moguldom, sharing tips on hiring and what’s next for Mars Reel.

“Shoot for all-stars and do so unapologetically because one amazing person can cover the groundwork of four people and it makes a huge difference.” — Bradley Deyo, chief operating officer of Mars Reel, on building a good team

Moguldom: Why Mars Reel? Why did you start it?

 Brandon Deyo: We started Mars Reel to get recruited because we couldn’t afford to pay for travel to elite camps or even expensive registration fees. The goal was to earn a college basketball scholarship, but the outcome was that the content we published generated national attention (being featured on Yahoo, Sports Illustrated, Sports Nation, ESPN, etc.) and it prompted us to think bigger about what we were treating as a side project at the time. Today it’s ballooned into one of the largest high school sports-focused media companies in the U.S.

 Moguldom: What have been some of your most notable wins?

Brandon Deyo: Being recognized in 2018 (at the) Forbes’ 30 Under 30 (Summit) as well as receiving the 2011 Ernst & Young Youth Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Moguldom: What are your thoughts on building a good team?

Bradley Deyo: Ask yourself who is the best person in the world at this position and just talk to them. You never know where someone is in their life and what their career goals are prior to having a discussion. Shoot for all-stars and do so unapologetically because one amazing person can cover the groundwork of four people and it makes a huge difference when you’re learning from people.

“I see the high school space getting more competitive with larger incumbents stepping in and creating content.” — Brandon Deyo, CEO of Mars Reel, on what the future looks like for high school sports-focused media.

Moguldom: What will people say about your leadership in the organization?

Brandon Deyo: I think people might say that I’m a motivator and that I have a demand for quality work and always encouraging people to be able to work independently.

Moguldom: How do you keep the creativity flowing to make the best product and services for clients?

Bradley Deyo: I have a whiteboard in my living room, listen to music, read books, ask questions, always maintain a learning mentality and always open to hearing feedback and ideas from anyone just to see where my mind takes it. Constant stimulation helps and most importantly making sure that we have people that dream and think big on our team.

Moguldom: What does success look like for your company?

 Brandon Deyo: A sports media brand that helps young athletes and schools get national attention and helps brands reach a young demographic in a unique, unconventional, and engaging way. We want to build a globally recognizable youth sports media brand that resonates with “digital natives.” Across the industry, I think high school sports will be a hot category, but it’s a very fragmented arena when compared to the world of pro sports. We want to be at the forefront of making that world more accessible and feel smaller. Once the space is better consolidated I think there will be a big opportunity for commercialization across youth and grassroots and that will benefit athletes and schools in various ways. This could be school sponsors, more games/tournaments, and exposure. We’ve seen our work drive this kind of change already at the very regional level where our coverage of schools has attracted school sponsorship(s) and excited to see if we can make a bigger impact.

 What do the next five years look like for Mars Reel?

Brandon Deyo: As it relates to Mars Reel, we see overall a bigger business and more (original) sports coverage at the youth and grassroots level. I also see the high school space getting more competitive with larger incumbents stepping in and creating content.