The power of documentaries: SeaWorld faces sinking profits

The power of documentaries: SeaWorld faces sinking profits

The 2013 documentary “Blackfish” aimed at exposing SeaWorld’s mistreatment of orca whales; the theme park is now seeing a substantial 84 percent drop in profits.


On Thursday, SeaWorld reported that their net income dropped from $37.4 million in 2014 to $5.8 million in 2015. The company explained that the problem resulted from challenges with their brand. After the release of the “Blackfish” documentary, it was difficult for SeaWorld to sell tickets because few people wanted to support a company that allegedly provoked violent behavior in their orca whales.      


Poster for "Supersize Me"

“Supersize Me” was so powerful, it took down the golden arches. (

Documentaries have shown to be a powerful force in enacting changes in companies. The 2004 documentary “Super Size Me” set out to shine light on the poor nutritional value of McDonald’s food. The popularity of the fast food documentary led to McDonald’s dropping the super size option from their menu and adding nutritional information to their food packaging. McDonald’s was able to recover from their negative PR, but can SeaWorld do the same?   



In an attempt to change their bad reputation, SeaWorld launched a marketing campaign that highlighted the claim that their whales live just as long as those in the wild. The company spent $10 million on this campaign, and even dropped their ticket prices, but it still wasn’t enough to combat the damage done by the film. Despite their financial troubles,


Seaworld Chief Executive Officer Joel Manby remains positive and will to continue working to change the company’s image.     

“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.”  


While Manby’s strategy is to “correct misinformation,” the director of animal law for PETA, Jared Goodman, believes that SeaWorld needs to make changes to its theme park. Goodman says that the company’s profits are doomed until SeaWorld “empties its tanks and builds coastal sanctuaries.”


Can SeaWorld recover from their financial troubles? Did the “Blackfish” documentary have an impact on your view of SeaWorld? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.


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