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SeaWorld’s new CEO, Joel Manby, was slated to begin his duties today as the company kicked off a new advertising campaign, arguing that its orca whales are “thriving” in captivity and boast a lifespan similar to killer whales roaming free in the oceans.
Whether you agree or not with SeaWorld’s marketing slant in its Facts About SeaWorld’s Killer Whales video in the wake of the Blackfish documentary, which pointed to SeaWorld’s mistreatment of killer whales in captivity, what’s important from a business perspective is that the company is getting aggressive with its reputational advertising campaign in print, social media and digital after at first all but ignoring the scathing documentary.
With attendance declines in the wake of the Blackfish fallout and a $50 million cost-cutting campaign, SeaWorld nominally increased sales and marketing costs in 2014 to $189.4 million, and plans on hiking marketing expenses again in 2015.
CFO James Heaney addressed the marketing issue during SeaWorld’s fourth quarter of 2014 earnings call on February 26, 2015, saying: “As regard to the reputation spending, we do have a little bit of news here. We have been working over the last 69 days quite diligently on pulling a marketing campaign for SeaWorld that is our normal marketing campaign which will be breaking sometime in late March and we are also – we’ve also spent a lot of time in research and marketing on the reputation side and we’ll be breaking a campaign no later than April in multiple media, in social media and print, digital.”
In addition to getting aggressive in its new ad campaign, SeaWorld is also struck back against a critic, releasing a disparaging — and apparently authentic — video of a former employee using racial slurs in a booze-filled phone called. The critic, John Hargrove, who appeared in Blackfish, wrote a book about SeaWorld’s mistreatment of the whales.
Here’s SeaWorld’s latest video:
Facts About SeaWorld’s Killer Whales