Theme Park Insider

It's time for Sea World to re-brand itself

November 19, 2017, 1:16 AM · I think its overdue Sea World rebrands/renames its company and all of its parks. Before calling me crazy, consider:

-Sea World literally hasn't made money as a public company ever.

-The shows, which have always been the biggest draw for the Sea World parks, have fallen out of public favor. People used to love going to Sea World to see the whales and dolphins perform, now [all biases aside because I love Sea World] people find those shows repulsive.

-People don't seem to care about the "new" Sea World heavily pushing rescue and new rides. Even with major new rides like B&M hyper coaster, attendance is still very bad.

-There is no way Sea World in Orlando can keep up spending wise for attractions to be big draws. Universal Orlando now not only has Harry Potter which increases length of stay, they also have a water park (Aquatica was a big draw for SWO) and Universal is also greatly expanding its hotel portfolio. No doubt the increased length of stay at Universal hurts Sea World. Both Disney and UO are now giant mega-resorts with their own hotels and water parks. People only have so much time and money on a vacation and they won't pass up on Harry Potter, Super Nintendo, or Star Wars for Sea World.

-Sea World in California can't compete with Universal or Disney attractions wise either...and California is the root of all their legislative problems (which they gave up trying to fight, smartly so because it would have been a huge waste of time and money).

-Ok so that's bad news their two biggest market parks are in trouble, but also consider that San Antonio is highly competitive as well. The coaster lovers are going to Six Flags, there are other things for tourists to do like the Alamo and River Walk, and the yuppies with kids are scarred by (what Scott Maxwell points out as the "Sea World stink).

-They can't keep losing money forever and cutting costs without increases in attendance/revenue is not a feasible long term business strategy. The cost cuts have to happen, but at some point in time business has to pick up. Attendance to most all other parks not only in Orlando, but all over the country, is up over the past 15 years.

Scott Maxwell recently wrote a report in the Sentinel about how they should rebrand SWO to Busch Gardens Orlando (the article can be read here)
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-seaworld-blackfish-busch-gardens-scott-maxwell-20171114-story.html

So Busch Gardens Orlando, Busch Gardens San Antonio, Busch Gardens San Diego?


Personally I would take it a step further. I've searched the 10k's up and down for some sort of licensing fee revenue but can't find anything. Both Busch Gardens parks seem to be doing well but they are basically free advertising for a company it doesn't have anything to do with anymore. Why not just rebrand the whole company and rename all the parks to something new?

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Replies (17)

Edited: November 19, 2017, 1:30 AM · I didn't want to put this in the topic because it deviates from it, but Sea Worlds current path is clearly on the road to bankruptcy. And considering the parks continue to lose huge amounts of money year after year, and are going to have a very difficult time competing in their markets as theme parks no matter what they do, does anyone think the land might be more valuable as

[gasp]

residential real estate?

I think that is actually a strong possibility that Busch Gardens get sold to Merlin or Herschend and the Sea World parks become real estate developments. I can't speak for San Antonio, but as a person that lives in Orlando and used to live in Socal I know there is huge demand for housing in both areas. You have a huge plot of land that is losing money year after year...it only makes sense.

November 19, 2017, 2:54 AM · This seems to be based on the presumption - an incorrect one - that sea world cannot be “sea world” without the whale show.

Meanwhile on Australia’s Gold Coast an unrelated “Sea World” owned by Village Roadshow has never had a whale, much less a whale show (sea lions and rescued dolphins do perform, and non reforming polar bears, penguins and others are viewable), yet continues to succeed.

The brand still does have value and still does attract customers, sea world US does however need a good long think about who they want to be.

November 19, 2017, 5:24 AM · Changing the name to Busch Gardens makes no sense. SeaWorld is tailored to the ocean theme. It’s more aquarium than safari. The name is fine, but the image needs updating. Thus, convert the Orcas to an exhibit and stop doing the shows, which appears boring. The parks should be taken private.
Edited: November 19, 2017, 7:22 AM · For someone who reckons they “love Seaworld “ you go a long way to bash the brand and err on the side of the “hate Seaworld “ fraternity, that are still a big thorn in the side of a company that needs support right now, and are desperately trying to do the right thing. Being a loyal passholder for 15 years I’m saddening by the happenings of the past 5 years, and realize there is a very long way to go before they are back to pre Blackfish days.
You go at the right time and believe me Seaworld is busy ... very busy, but this time of year between holidays it is very quiet. I don’t want Seaworld to turn into a Disney or Universal, I want Seaworld to pull thru this and become the park they’re working their way to become. The big test will come when the Shamu show becomes the Orca encounter .... San Diego has seen a drop off in attendance, but I’m hoping being based in Orlando SWO won’t suffer the same fate.
Infinity Falls will help ... the conservation side of the ride needs to be a stand alone though, with the option to get wet or move on at the end.
Yes ... Seaworld is a long way off from pleasing all of the people all of the time, but it doesn’t help their cause when people call out ‘rebranding ‘ or even selling off the property for development ... such nonsense.
Give them a chance, they have been horse whipped since Blackfish, and to be fair to them they are trying to make amends. Circuses are dead, or dying, but places like zoos and Seaworld still have a place in this world, albeit very much changed since I was a kid (for the better I may add).
Seaworld Cares shows what they are all about ... check it out, you may be enlightened and maybe just maybe your doom and gloom view of the park will be changed.
I stand by Seaworld..... always have done, always will.
Edited: November 19, 2017, 1:56 PM · The difference between you and me is that while I like the parks (they are great parks and I always go to SWO a few times a year), I also don't let it be a bias on realistically what is going on with the company.


Part of what I do for a living is analyze 10k reports. Sea World is in trouble, big trouble, and have been for a long time. They are doing the same thing Six Flags did in 2003-2008 and trying to cut a lot of corners to make up for their huge losses but at some point if they don't start breaking even their lenders will catch on and stop loaning them money (just like what happened to SF, which ended in bankruptcy).

I would make the argument that Sea World is in much deeper trouble than Six Flags as SF got into problems because of a huge spending spree. Way too much debt mixed with poor management decisions on new rides and stuff like that (the crappy operations and customer service was icing on the cake), however individually many of their parks were actually good businesses with high attendance operating at a profit. This allowed SF to emerge from the bankruptcy.

Sea World on the other hand, if they go the Six Flags route and file Chapter 11, what happens? They still have all the issues. They do have some good assets (Busch Gardens, water parks, and the Discovery Coves) but even with those overall the company has been losing money hand over fist.

So what if there's a few days a year it is busy? There were a few Saturdays a year that Geauga Lake was busy as well. If attendance took a dive when Mako opened why would Infinity Falls help at all? If you're the average family is a raft ride going to get you to Sea World? First off nobody goes to an Orlando park just to ride a raft ride. Second you can go to Universal and go on the raft ride there and see Harry Potter, and you can go to Disney and go on the raft ride there and see Avatar. I'm not trying to bash Infinity Falls it looks like it will make the park a little better, but to say somehow it's going to help turn Sea World around is just not going to happen (and honestly after seeing the Wave Breaker coaster at SWSA and the new submarine ride at SWSD..I have serious doubts on whether Infinity Falls will even be that good). Frankly Infinity Falls wont do **** to help attendance.

It's really disappointing to see the fans pushing for the status quo, its like Sea World has been around so long that theme parks fans automatically assume it can't go bust. I wonder if Kmart, Blockbuster, and Montgomery Wards fans thought the status quo was just dandy as well.


Sea World lost $176 million in just the last quarter (that's three months). They lost an average of almost $2 million per DAY. That included Spring Break and much of summer. Lets be serious the changes they've been making haven't turned anything around.

November 19, 2017, 2:36 PM · It will be interesting to see how the brand fares in cultures with different concepts on animal rights like UAE and, presumably, China in the future.
Foreign markets could be a game changer, but domestically I think it makes sense to move on from the name. It appears they're not interested in selling off the Busch Gardens brand so why not make the most of it? And I'm not just saying that because the SeaWorld name is currently poison, but because the BG brand offers greater opportunity moving forward.

http://www.themeparkinsider.com/flume/201511/4818/

In Robert's commentary from two years ago, he points out that SeaWorld started tanking before Blackfish. He points to SeaWorld's lack of stories, heroes, escapism, and engaging intellectual property. SeaWorld's attempts at creating stories have been abysmal (anyone emotionally invested in their cheap CGI penguin?) and I simply don't think they're capable.
BG parks aren't exactly IP-rich either, but I'd think it a lot easier to immerse guests in different exotic cultures and build stories around that than to get people immersed in their stupid turtle dome.

November 19, 2017, 5:46 PM · >>>but because the BG brand offers greater opportunity moving forward.

Does it?

As an international visitor, I know what a "Sea world" is - the clue is in the name. Busch Gardens however looks like the local garden centre made a typo in its ads.

November 19, 2017, 6:30 PM · Chad- True, international recognition could be a big factor in Orlando where they draw from across the globe, as well as future Asian parks as I mentioned. Also considering how Discovery Cove fits in with the SeaWorld brand, I do really doubt they would make that change in Orlando.
However, I don't know if the original San Diego gets as much international attention and really doubt San Antonio does. Were they to continue with the continental theme and turn San Antonio into the Pan-American Busch Gardens and San Diego into the Pacific Busch Gardens, I feel like that could be a lot more interesting to the domestic visitors that sustain those parks.
November 19, 2017, 6:49 PM · I agree that SeaWorld needs to make some drastic changes, but rebranding isn't the answer. I just can't see how that would encourage more people to visit, as those who are against SeaWorld because its SeaWorld would likely see what happened and still avoid the place, while those who aren't in the know may pass on the park as the new name doesn't sound as appealing. Besides, my guess is that they'd need to pay more licensing fees to use the Busch Gardens name anywhere else, and that just isn't something the company should be doing right now.

The best path forward for SeaWorld is to stop trying to compete with the bigger parks and instead try to be something unique. Focus on what the competition doesn't have rather than trying to copy what works for other parks on a fraction of the budget. Chain-wide, the additions over the past 5 years have been pretty lackluster (with the exception of Mako), and a large part of that is because they're not addressing their core demographic. In Florida, they should aim more for the locals, as the destination parks now offer so much that very few visitors with a week or less will even consider a day at SeaWorld. Thrill rides are a good choice there, but the park needs to cut their admission costs in order to encourage more repeat visitors. In Texas, look at what Six Flags Fiesta Texas lacks and focus on those areas. In California, the situation is a bit trickier to work with, but adding a small stock coaster after a half-baked kiddie area clearly isn't what the public wants. Here, they'd probably be better served with an educational all-audiences dark ride...something Epcot-esque would be great for this park. That is the root of the problem...not the name, but the experience. IP isn't necessary, and neither is an elimination of animals...they just need to figure out who their target audience is and commit solely to them.

November 19, 2017, 7:16 PM · Seaworld has its heroes ... but they don’t need to wear costumes or have fancy names. They are the people who care for the sick and injured animals that Seaworld chooses to help.
AJ is spot on ... and reiterates my comments. There is a place for the Seaworlds in this world, but they need to figure it out and work towards that goal. It won’t happen overnight, maybe not in 1-2 years but they will get there, and then maybe we will be free of all the negative comments that the park undeservedly gets from those who believe the only truth is Blackfish.
November 20, 2017, 9:13 AM · Sea World is at a crossroads where it needs to invent itself within the industry. Over the past couple of year, it appears that they've been trying to position themselves to be purchased, but no one is biting (or at least not offering an acceptable price). Joel Manby has not put the chain on a positive path despite his success with Herschend. The Orlando park is spending money on additions that have little impact on overall attendance and spending, but are cutting back in areas that are getting noticed in a crowded market where attention to detail is appreciated (I'm looking right at you Journey to Atlantis!!). They appear to be devoid of any long range plan to transition away from their icon, and until that plan is clear the park will continue to struggle in a highly competitive market.

I've always been a huge fan and supporter of the chain, but it's made far too many mis-steps over the past 5-8 years, and is skating on seriously thin ice. I don't know if there's one thing that will save this park, but I do know that a raft ride won't have any affect.

Edited: November 20, 2017, 10:44 AM · It's a big fat mess, and I think we all agree they need to decide in which direction they are going ... and stick to it. The new water ride will definitely not save the park. Spending that money on improving The Arctic and Antarctica experiences would most probably have gotten more people in thru the turnstiles.
And I agree Russell .... improving JtoA would have helped too. It never ceases to amaze me just how many people ride that thing !! maybe that's what SeaWorld based their "let's build another water ride" decision on?
2019 will be the make or break year, when the Shamu show closes and the Orca encounter opens. I think this will be the watershed point for the park, as they supposedly are moving away for their icon.
Does the word "Shamu" still exist in the vocabulary of the San Diego park ?
According to the local reports Orlando is going to have the largest Orca environment .. anywhere. Well, if they do what they did in San Diego, it's not going to convince me, and it certainly won't get in more paying customers. It'll be interesting to resurrect this thread in 2 years, and see where they are then ?
Edited: November 20, 2017, 12:03 PM · I'm going to stick to my guns here and say very few visitors to Sea World, maybe .01% of people, know or care about some theming being removed from Journey to Atlantis.

Also lowering the prices and appealing to locals isn't working either. They have had the same fun card deal as Busch Gardens forever where you buy one day and get the rest of the year free. This has worked really well for Busch Gardens though...which just shows the problem isn't the pricing, it's the fact that it's Sea World.

As a Florida resident you can buy a Discovery Cove day for $150 and it includes 14 days of SWO, Aquatica, and BGT...if that's not a freakin steal of a ticket I don't know what is.

November 20, 2017, 4:34 PM · If I ran the company, this is how I'd fix this mess:
-Ditch the Animals Completely, get rid of them by Easter 2018
-New Name (SeaVentures Thrill Park)
-Rebrand as a sea themed amusement park, with no animals
-Market to the locals with local food festivals, and daily performances by local bands and schools
-Build something new and great that would attract something from people located LA down to Tijuana
-Replace the tanks with dark rides and theming, try and find a niche like Knotts where you get the thrill and the theme all at once
Edited: November 20, 2017, 5:40 PM · I think the problem with that Kenny, is then you've lost your entire unique selling point. You're just another fun park in a crowded space.

I say keep the animals, just not the whales. I don't care how big the tank is, you can never build a tank that is big enough to suit a whale.They can't go to the wild, that much is true, find some sort of large private bay where they can live out their days. Brand this as the Sea World Animal Rescue centre, and ensure any time there is any sort of ecological emergency every newscaster in the country utters the phrase "and Veternarians from the Sea World Animal Rescue Centre lead efforts to...". It can even get charitable status, supported by visitors to Sea World (hey, if Disney can have a Marketing-Campaign-Charity, why not everyone else?)

Team up with a TV Channel (kid focused) to create a Reality TV programme following the life of these "Super Vets" Show them in the parks, dealing with disasters, make them the A-Team of animal rescue. This will win the most important hearts and minds, and help get kids excited about conservation - and wanting to go to Sea World so they can be like their heroes.

There should be no animal entertainment show unless there is true reason to believe that that sort of enrichment is actually positive to the animals - so Dolphin Shows and Seals might be okay long term, if there is scientific evidence to back it up. In the short term, existing show can stay but new "entertainers" can only be those from an entertainment background - its all they know.

All other animal exhibits are simply observe only. Habitats redesigned to "hide" humans from the animals, and provide as much as possible a realistic home for the animals. The focus is on education, not entertainment.

Lastly, consider moving the parks. They're too far from the coast. In line with the "Sea World Animal rescue Centre" strategy, put the new parks right on the coast.

November 20, 2017, 6:38 PM · On Journey to Atlantis - I went on that ride once in my life with zero preconceived notions as to what it would be. Even I could tell it was a shell of an atraction and, despite generally enjoying the ride, came off wondering to myself if it was undergoing some unannounced refurbishment.
November 21, 2017, 9:10 AM · Some good points raised Chad. You’re right, there is no pool large enough to hold the Orcas, but in reality SeaWorld is stuck with them, so they must do the best they can to appease the doubters and get people back into the park. What I would like to see is the entire Shamu area be made into one large deep flowing pool. Add as much natural surroundings as possible ... in and out of the water. They've already started that process by adding rocks at the bottom of the viewing pool.
Make it an educational attraction, and limit the 'tricks' they are taught to do. Let them do more of their own thing like the dolphins in their Key West pool area. It would at least give the whales something different than the concrete walls they have now. I accept the fact it's not ideal, but in 10-20 years ?? there will be no more Orcas at SeaWorld, so at least try and give them the best environment possible for their remaining years.


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