What Armenia’s Rising Basketball Star Can Teach Us About Building A Brand

Tapping into a specific aspect of your identity, be it as an underdog, a risk-taker, or something else, is a critical step in building your personal brand.

Embracing that part of yourself not only gives you an instant authenticity boost, but it also can give you something to build your brand around if you need help getting started.

For Gary Chivichyan, an Armenian basketball player who’s currently in close talks with the NBA’s Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Clippers G-league affiliates, that’s meant stepping into his role as an underdog. He was the first Armenian ever to be eligible for the NBA G-League draft in 2021, as well as becoming the first Armenian to be nominated for an ESPN ESPYS award. Chivichyan was 1 of the 195 players who were given a player’s contract. He was chosen as the New York Knicks (Westchester) placement in the 2021-2022 NBA G-League draft on January 11th, which consisted of NBA veterans and top prospects such as Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasly, Admiral Schofield, and more.

As the coronavirus went rampant, Chivichyan was notified of many cancelations as he and his head trainer Vicken Eskidjian were preparing for such as showcases, camps, and scheduled workouts with multiple different NBA organizations disallowing Chivichyan and many other incoming NBA prospects to showcase their abilities to teams and scouts like they would on a regular off-season.

Chivichyan’s agent Ara Vartanian had to adapt to the unprecedented circumstances of 2020 and successfully took the first steps toward the young star’s NBA dreams by securing Chivichyan’s player’s contract, making Chivichyan available for the up-coming NBA G-League draft and the regular season tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2021.

I spoke with Chivichyan recently about how he’s focusing on building his brand as he looks toward the NBA.

Shama Hyder: People love to root for an underdog. How does embracing your underdog mentality help you build a brand that resonates with people?


Gary Chivichyan: My underdog mentality made me work harder than everyone else; I was seen as a “minority” in the sport, an Armenian kid who does not belong in the NBA or anything affiliated with pro sports. Embracing that hard work, no-quit attitude and competitiveness brings out the best in me, both physically and mentally. This shows itself when I am on the court and when I talk to others, especially kids. I have embraced failures as an underdog and it has made me become better at my craft, made me improve in all facets of my game and personal life.

Hyder: Why is it important to represent your community when building your brand?

Chivichyan: I want to show kids coming from minority families that they can become who they truly wish to be–but only if they put in the consistent work to be able to do so.

Globally, people are realizing that I have gotten to a point no Armenian has reached before, and that’s important to me because I come from a culture that has fewer than 10 million people in the world. We are almost a dying breed, and there has been so much suffering. So my branding also encompasses my country: We have faced many difficulties, but we always get better.

That is why my community and my culture matter to me. In this difficult time, I want to be the happy story–the story that makes my people and every underdog and minority happy.

Hyder: What would you tell people who are trying to attract more attention and greater opportunities in their field?

Chivichyan: I’d also say you have to believe in yourself and practice positive habits. You also need to understand the reasons behind your goals, and most importantly, be self-disciplined–not just motivated.

Hyder: Your dad is an MMA hall of fame. How do you take that narrative and weave it into your own story?

Chivichyan: My father is the true testament of a warrior, a man who built his career and dynasty out of nothing. He moved from the Soviet Union at a young age, becoming a multiple-time world champion in multiple martial arts, successful MMA fighter, undefeated throughout his career.

He and my brother, who is a pro fighter himself (ranked first in the USA in judo for the 100kg division) have been my mentors. This goes to show that every successful person needs a strong person or people behind them. Without my father Gokor Chivichyan and my brother Arthur Chivichyan, I don’t think I would be in this position.

Hyder: You’ve become an icon for young people. What are some ways that you would advise others to authentically connect with this audience?

Chivichyan: I’d tell people to simply be honest and try to communicate with young people freely and openly. When I speak with kids or young adults, I focus on telling them what’s worked for me.

A lot of that is not letting fear get the better of you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to seek a teacher or mentor. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Think about how you can grow and improve, don’t set yourself back from failures, but learn from them so you can get better.

Most importantly, don’t ever compare yourself to others, only compare yourself to the person you were yesterday. How can you get better? By focusing on small wins, you can get the glory you deserve.

Building a brand is about more than how you present yourself to the world. It’s about how you actually see yourself–your beliefs about who you are and what you have to offer. By tapping into that, you’ll be able to create something truly authentic.

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