Behind the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans’ Substantial Name Choice

  by    0   0

When the New Orleans’ Hornets were presented with an opportunity to rebrand and rename the Crescent City NBA franchise, they had a rich palette of choices (Krewe, Brass, Cajuns, Blues among others).  And while a few of us initially scratched our heads at the choice of ‘Pelicans’, a closer look reveals why the moniker was the most meaningful and authentic decision they could have made.

In 2002, the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans ,  keeping the team name despite there being no special link between New Orleans and that particular species of bee. New Orleans remained the Hornets until 2013, when a 2nd Charlotte team, then called the Bobcats, decided they wanted to bring the Hornets name back to Charlotte  Tom Benson and his daughter Rita Benson LeBlanc, co-owners of both the New Orleans NBA team and the NFL’s Saints, decided to oblige the Charlotte ownership, led by Michael Jordan. This meant they needed a new name. The Bensons went with the Pelicans. Why?

 According to a club statement in January 2013, the Pelicans name was chosen because “it symbolized Louisiana’s mdownloadost pressing need for coastal restoration and wildlife conservation.” The health and sustainability of the region’s wetlands, recovering from the devastation of Katrina in 2005 and the BP Oil Spill in 2010, thus became a cornerstone of the Pelicans’ community relations platforms. Tom Benson said ” The Pelican will…not only be a name of a sports franchise but it will also be the face of the continued recovery of our region.”

As owners of the NFL’s Saints, the Bensons had a leading role in the recovery from the early days after Katrina, as they took a forward-looking, sustainability-focused approach to the rebuilding of the New Orleans Superdome. Per Ms. Benson-LeBlanc, in an interview with Bloomberg in August, 2013, “Post-Katrina, we re-skinned the entire building by using energy efficient materials. This…made a dramatic impact to the bottom line.”


BensonLeBlanc and NO Players

Pelicans’ Co-Owner Rita Benson-LeBlanc with Players


NO Superdome During post-Katrina Reconstruction











Pelicans’ management has built upon what the Saints started, employing a mix of hands-on cleanup work, PR and lobbying, education and fund-raising.

Oil slicks threaten all wildlife, including pelicans. So the team, when it was still named the Hornets, took an active role in the cleanup of the BP oil spill. “Planet Rebound” (great name, no?) deploys club employees, including players, in the affected wetlands, rescuing and cleaning oil-covered animals. That assistance continues today, 4 years after the event.

  • The Pelicans and Audubon Nature Institute paired up on an environmental education initiative in schools and in the community, focused on the preservation of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.
  • The club and Greater New Orleans, Inc., (GNO) have teamed up to make sure funds from RESTORE Act, the federal trust fund that provides resources to BP Spill-affected areas, continue to be directed to the Louisiana wetlands.
  • GNO and the Pelicans are also working together to bring Pelicans players to visit the coastal wetlands and help with restoration efforts.
  • Toast For The Coast is the high profile, annual fundraising event which supports the activities described above. Fans interact with the players and coaching staff who, in turn, share their experiences in the wetlands.


The Pelicans are one of 12 NBA Teams who are members of the Green Sports Alliance.  The NBA is also a member  as a league and one of the most active, having held ‘NBA Green Week‘ in conjunction with Earth Month (April) for the past 5 years.  

While the Hornets/Pelicans have been one of the NBA’s weaker sisters on the court since they moved from Charlotte, they are at the top of the ladder in their commitment in words and action on sustainability.  

Led by emerging superstar Anthony Davis, the Pelicans are on the upswing, but off the court, the Pelicans are already a shining example of the power of the Green & Sports.




Related Posts

Try Not to Suck (A few ideas for your environmental messaging)

In a past blog, we discussed how many very progressive brands are still not using their sports marketing platforms to share their environmental values, instead burying them in the annual sustainability report. But maybe we should take a step back first, and look at sustainability messaging in general, before we dive into embedding it into […]


Dear Conference Organizer

  Please don’t keep me in the dark.  And other hints to create a genuinely valuable experience. It’s that time of year that many of us look out at the vast array of conferences (have these quadrupled in the last 5 years or is it just me?), and decide where to spend our time, energy […]


Major League Sports’ Magic Number Is 3

Three is a magic number.  Yes it is. It’s a magic number.  All you Schoolhouse Rock grads can hum along.   For those not in the know, sports have always embraced threes on the field/court/rink/track.  The Triple Crown in horseracing, triple-double in basketball, hat tricks in hockey and the epically elusive triple that has kept […]


Featured Author: Small Business BC

Small Business BCOur own Aileen McManamon provided her industry insight to Small Business BC by contributing an article featured in their ‘Growing A Business” section. Small Business BC is British Columbia’s premiere resource centre for knowledge-based business products and services. Aileen’s article “The Business of Major Events: Exploring and Pursuing High Profile Contracts” focuses on ways to properly […]


The NCAA’s Obligation to Todd Gurley

With autonomy awarded to the “Power Five” Conferences this summer, the lines of collegiate and professional sports are becoming ever increasingly blurred. While the powers of self-governance has been extended to schools and conferences, student-athletes are still held by the amateur limitations of NCAA.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *