Benson, who also owns the NFL's New Orleans Saints, bought the New Orleans Hornets franchise last April. He said he wanted a name that better reflected New Orleans culture.
The pelican is the Louisiana state bird and is shown on the state flag and seal.
A previous NBA franchise in New Orleans was called the Jazz but it moved to Utah in 1979, retaining the Jazz nickname.
When the Charlotte Hornets were moved to New Orleans in 2002 that nickname also transferred. Benson's announcement of the change to Pelican allows the Charlotte Bobcats to become the Hornets.
Benson said the new team colors would be blue, red and gold. The New Orleans Hornets wear "Creole" blue, dark purple, "Mardi Gras" gold and white.
"Our region has been hard hit in recent years and the one thing that stands out is the resiliency and determination to comeback, to fight and overcome. The Pelican symbolizes that," Benson said.
"The synergy of this name, this bird and the future of our state and region are intertwined and in three, five, 10 years from now, it will be not only be a name of a sports franchise but it will also be the face of the continued recovery of our region."