New Orleans-area fans have gotten things rolling in the search for a new nickname for the Triple-A Zephyrs minor league team.
The process continues with meetings this week with officials of San Diego-based Brandiose, which is leading the rebranding efforts of the team. New owner Lou Schwechheimer bought the Zephyrs in November and said the name change is necessary to bring the team into an exciting new age.
The first step was to have a campaign from April 25 to May 6 in which fans submitted suggestions for a new nickname. There were 2,539 online entries submitted to a Website, said Jason Klein, an owner of Brandiose.
“There was a lot of interest and a lot of enthusiasm,” Schwechheimer said. “I’m elated. We’re excited because there was an overwhelming number of names. A lot of people may have suggested similar names, but the response has been in the thousands.”
According to Klein, some of the nicknames entered that kept coming up were Beignets, Catahoulas (the official state dog), Crescents, Flambeau, Hurricanes, Jazz and Krewes. Others were the Mudbugs and Poboys.
“We had lots of variatons of Krewes and a lot of Poboys,” Klein said.
Just before the campaign began, nicknames such as NOLA Jazz and Swamp Dogs began showing up in internet chats. A canvass of Zephyr Field game crowds revealed the most popular name to be Pelicans. Of course, that one’s taken by the city’s NBA team.
The next step will be to complete a list of nicknames that team officials and those with Brandiose believe will resonate most with area fans now and into the future, Schwechheimer said. That list will be put to a fan vote to ultimately select the new nickname, which will be revealed during the fall, Klein said.
Klein already is sorting through the names submitted, and he and Brandiose co-owner Casey White will be in New Orleans for meetings Tuesday and Wednesday, Klein said, to begin formulating the list. That list is expected to be completed between the end of May and beginning of June, he said.
“Our goal is to become honorary citizens (of the New Orleans area) for a couple of days,” Klein said. “We want to immerse ourselves into the heart and soul and uncover what makes New Orleans tick. We want to be New Orleans experts pretty quick.”
Schwechheimer said Zephyrs and Brandiose officials will meet with fans and community members and civic, business and political leaders, “people of all walks of life.” A panel to assist in the name change also has been formed.
However, that won’t be accomplished with a couple of sit-down meetings, Klein said.
“We’re going to be taking a real nice tour of the city, and we are going to talk to people at every place we go about what makes New Orleans, New Orleans,” he said. “This identity needs to represent the heart and soul of New Orlans, and it needs to be about fun and a symbol of pride. And we want to make sure we do our extensive research before we start coming up with some ideas.”
The goal is to come up with five to seven names that are representative of the community. Part of that will involve making sure none of the names is in violation of those already taken by professional sports teams and others. The fan vote will come right after the list is compiled.
Brandiose has done more than 50 campaigns to arrive at nicknames for minor league teams. Two that have proven to be among the most popular are the Triple-A Pacific Coast League El Paso Chihuahuas, the Double-A Eastern League Richmond Flying Squirrels and the Triple-A International League Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The Chihuahuas, who began play with the new nickname in 2014 after moving from Tucson, Arizona, has the top-selling minor league logo of all-time. Brandiose had the top-selling logo in 2008 with the Iron Pigs and with the Flying Squirrels in 2010.
Schwechheimer is looking for that kind of success with his team’s new identity, and has said the process matters a lot more than any deadlines they may impose.
“We have to get this right,” he said. “We want an exciting name, and we want to come up with great colors and have a great identity for a very long time.”
Klein said attending a game here will be like going to a theme area at a popular amusement park.
“If you go to a section of Disney World, like the Wild West part, everything is about the Wild West, the food, the music, the clothing. We want to create this entertainment universe where we can tell the story of New Orleans through all the different things we’ll have going at the ballpark,” he said.
“It’s got to be something that will only work in New Orleans, and with maybe something a little unexpected, too. That’s always a good thing.”