Controversial entertainment company SeaWorld, suffering declines in both attendance at its parks and its share price, plans to double down on its current strategy and open more exhibits with more captive animals. Using more creatures in captivity to entertain patrons of its parks seems to contradict the message of animal protection and conservation that the company touts, raising a fresh round of questions for the often-protested company.
SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. received bad news this week when its stock price dropped more than 5% in premarket trading this morning. The decline follows SeaWorld’s reporting that its earnings fell 84% in the second quarter, typically one of the company’s best quarters year to year. SeaWorld officials state that heavy rains in Texas, an earlier Easter holiday and “brand images” have resulted in less attendance at its parks and therefore the drop in share price.
Despite the issuance of steep discounts, marketing campaigns and various promotions, attendance at SeaWorld parks around the country fell 2% compared to the same period last year. The brand images the company suffers is due largely to the release of the 2013 documentary Blackfish. The documentary, produced by animal rights activists, alleges cruelty by holding Orcas in activity. The film also alleges that the treatment of orcas in captivity provokes violent behavior. Park attendance fell shortly after the documentary was released to the public.
In light of the negative press, SeaWorld has spent millions trying to rebuild its image. SeaWorld chief executive Joel Manby stated that, “Early feedback on [the company’s] campaign has been positive, however [it] recognize[s] that fully resolving [the] brand challenges in California will require sustained focus and commitment to correct misinformation.” The marketing campaign stresses that SeaWorld’s animals are very well-treated and that orcas live as well and as long as those in the wild.
Despite the decrease in numbers across the board, SeaWorld indicated that most of the increased expense in marketing spending is now over and that it still expects to meet its financial goals for 2015. Manby told shareholders that a new shark-themed exhibit will open soon in the Orlando park and that the “biggest, tallest, longest, fastest coaster” is set to open in 2016. Moreover, SeaWorld will also open an exhibit at its San Antonio, Texas park that will allow park goers the opportunity to swim with dolphins in a “naturalistic” setting. Manby is confident these additions, in conjunction with its marketing campaign will boost attendance at its parks and increase its growth and revenue.