NEW ORLEANS — Tying the rebranding of New Orleans’ professional basketball team to Louisiana’s culture, wetlands and coastal restoration efforts, Hornets owner Tom Benson officially unveiled the team’s new nickname as the Pelicans on Thursday at the New Orleans Arena.
The move had been anticipated since April, when Benson bought the team, and Pelicans had surfaced as the all-but-certain name in the past two months.
“We gave a lot of thought and a lot of work to what this would mean to us,” said Benson, who also owns the Saints. “The New Orleans Saints mean a great deal to this community. It’s known throughout the world. Now, the New Orleans Pelicans, we’ve got to get it going throughout the world.”
Said team president Dennis Lauscha: “The Pelicans’ brand name will be the cornerstone of our community efforts that will primarily focus on two things we believe that are fundamental challenges to the region — the health and fitness of our children and the health and sustainability of our coastal wetlands.”
The new name, colors and logo were unveiled before approximately 150 dignitaries, guests and media. The colors are blue, gold and red, drawing from the state of Louisiana and city of New Orleans flags. The logo features a pelican similar to that on the state flag; it appears to be holding a basketball in its red beak. Its wings are gold and its eyes red, giving it an edgy look.
At the top is a red fleur-de -lis, representing the heart of the city, Lauscha said, and “New Orleans” is in lettering inspired by signs on Bourbon Street. The word “Pelicans” is at the bottom in a crescent of red that also represents the city.
The logo was designed by Rodney Richardson of Hattiesburg, Miss.
Indigenous to Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, the brown pelican faced extinction in 1963 but now numbers more than 100,000 — even after the 2010 BP oil spill.
“Passion, teamwork, resiliency, resourcefulness, loyalty, pride, precision, grace, family, dignity, grandeur and charity,” Lauscha said, ticking off characteristics he said were shared by the pelican and citizens of the region.
Lauscha said blue, the primary color, is derived from the state flag; gold unites the team with the Saints, is the color of nobility and represents the championships the franchise hopes to win; and red stands for fraternity and enduring.
The nickname, colors and logo will be go into effect after this season. The team’s uniforms and that of the dance team will be unveiled this summer.
When reports of the name change being imminent surfaced weeks ago, the players seemed indifferent. Backup forward/center Jason Smith, the longest-tenured member of the team, said that changed during the video presentation to the team.
“I think everyone’s response was like, ‘Wow,’ ” he said. “(The video) really gave us more of an understanding about what the pelican means to this area, and I think the logo really stands out.”
Dr. Tommy Karam, an LSU sports marketing professor, said Benson hit it big with the rebranding.
“I think it’s a very smart move in all directions,” he said. “It’s crisp, very clean and well-designed. It will show well in merchandising. It has enough of an edge to it to set the stage for a lot of marketing opportunities.
“With the fans getting new merchandise, new fans coming on board and the national interest it will create, the revenue will just multiply.”