SeaWorld Responds to Harry Styles

With two sentences, Harry Styles of One Direction contributed to SeaWorld's continuing decline. The trouble started with the movie Blackfish, which exposed the park's treatment of orca whales. Now, Credit Suisse analysts point to new culprits resulting in "a 400% spike in mentions and 13% increase in negative commentary month-over-month:"

"Brand impairment issues were magnified in July from allegations that a SeaWorld employee acted as an undercover member of activist group Peta, and after One Direction lead singer, Harry Styles, urged all of his fans to boycott SeaWorld during a concert in San Diego."

After Styles' performance, the company issued this statement:

"Dear Harry, we've seen a concert clip of you urging your fans not to visit SeaWorld. We want you to know we love dolphins too. We care for the animals in our parks like we would our own family.

"We are committed to making sure their lives are enriching and they are continually engaged socially, mentally and physically. And, we also care for animals in the wild.

"We invite you to see for yourself, and then decide based on facts. We are happy to open our doors, take you behind the scenes, and have our trainers and vets answer any questions you have." 

New CEO Joel Manby acknowledged damage to the brand:

"We realize we have much work ahead of us to recover more of our attendance base, increase revenue and improve our performance as returning to historical performance levels will take time and investment. On the reputation side, early feedback on our campaign has been positive. However, we recognize that fully resolving our brand challenges in California will require sustained focus and commitment to correct misinformation."

Discussion Starters:

  • How does a performer such as Styles have such a big impact? Do you believe Credit Suisse's assessment?
  • What can SeaWorld do at this point to repair its brand image? Is it hopeless?