SeaWorld Tries New Approach

After denying impact on park attendance, SeaWorld is finally admitting that negative publicity about its killer whales is affecting business

"The company believes attendance in the quarter was impacted by demand pressures related to recent media attention surrounding proposed legislation in the state of California." 

The media attention began with the film Blackfish, which criticized how SeaWorld treated its orcas. Musical performers had cancelled their scheduled shows, and attendance had dropped, but revenue held steady for a while, partly because the park increased prices. Now, shares are down 30% for the year (almost 50% for the past 12 months).

After ignoring the negative publicity, SeaWorld's approach was to contradict Blackfish and other animal rights activists. Then, SeaWorld seemed to take a more proactive approach, highlighting on its Facebook page and Twitter account animals it was saving and protecting.

Now, the company has taken a new approach, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to enlarge tanks and provide exercise treadmills. SeaWorld is also committing $10 million to match funds for killer whale research. 

With the headline, "Announcing BIG NEWS on the exciting future of killer whales at SeaWorld parks," an email was sent to SeaWorld customers (entire message):

SeaWorld news

Discussion Starters:

  • Read SeaWorld's email to customers. Assess the design, message strategy, and organization. What works well, and what could be improved?
  • What do you think about SeaWorld's viability going forward? Will the parks spring back, or are they doomed?

Read a case study about SeaWorld's Response to Blackfish. If you would like an assignment (a recommendation report) about the case, send me email (