Sea World was once a company that was a strong competitive force in the tourist industry. It would not matter if you were in Orlando, San Diego, or in any other city where Sea World operates – they were once a leader in what one would call a glorified marine life zoo. There are potentially no other places where a tourist could go that could get them so close and near to sea animals like Sea World accommodated. Now, it appears as if their ‘ocean’ has been contaminated and is drying up. For many years, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have been gunning for the demise of Sea World for quite some time. Their smoking gun came when one of the Orca whales at the Orlando location injured and drowned trainer Dawn Brancheau in front of tourists during a scheduled show performance. This devastating and heartbreaking incident lead to the production of a documentary film named, Blackfish, where Sea World’s dirty little secrets were made public. This almost devastated Sea World and now, for once, they were not prepared for the backlash of the documentary Blackfish.
So what harm did this do to the massive company that once prided itself on the fact that they rescue, rehabilitate, and care for sea animals? Since the death of Dawn Brancheau, the loss in revenue has significantly increased year-to-year. In 2013, the loss was $13 million that nearly doubly increased to $25.4 million in 2014. This is a major loss just within one year. Ms. Lori Weisberg attests that stocks “Plummeted more than 36 percent”. Park attendance, companywide, is currently down by at least one million tourists for 2014 [AND] that averages out to a “4.2 percent decline” from the previous year, which is major when you are looking at forecasts for the next year budget. With this type of overall loss for the eleven theme parks, what are they to do?
The executives at Sea World are counting on the new CEO Joel Manby, a longtime theme park executive, to help steer the company into a direction where it can gain footing back into the tourist arena. A new campaign was implemented to help tourists “Meet the Animals” and gain a better understanding of what Sea World does and how it helps animals that cannot thrive in their own natural habitats due to illness or injury – writes Weisberg. Part of this campaign includes paid advertisements where a Sea World veterinarian, Chris Dolb, states that he is “Someone who cares for these incredible animals, their health and well-being is my priority every day” [AND] Just like doctors, we take an oath” .
This type of advertisement is insinuating that because Dr. Dolb is a veterinarian and has taken an oath that he would not misrepresent the truth to the public about what goes on at Sea World. However, will the public really capture this type of advertisement and believe its veracity? Some think that it is too little too late for Sea World. Ms. Weisberg had also questioned why Sea World did not run these sorts of campaigns after trainer Brancheau died and more importantly when Blackfish was airing multiple times on CNN. Would resources for advertising be better spent elsewhere?
One place where Sea World is doing really well is within their educational website that explains just how Sea World cares, named Sea World Cares. There are many sections within the website that one can get answers to all their questions regarding what Sea World does for their efforts to rescue and care for marine life. This website breaks it down to many areas that talk about the type of research that is being done. They talk about how they protect wildlife. They even pride themselves on the fact that they have rescued more than 25,000 animals in the past five decades. This site truly shows that education is very important to the company since there are teacher resources and education camps that can be attended. A lot of time and resources were pulled together to make this site available to negate the bad publicity and to show just what Sea World is all about.