Will activists targeting SeaWorld end up helping it instead?
Could anti-animal-captivity activists be doing SeaWorld a favor?
SeaWorld's long been Enemy Number One of PETA and other organizations that want to end the practice of holding animals in captivity. As the world's leading brand in marine mammal parks, SeaWorld's a high profile target — one that established a practice of not fighting back against, and often, not even responding to, PR attacks. That allows anti-animal-captivity activists a free shot in news media, which they've been taking in launching a PR campaign against musical acts booked to play SeaWorld Orlando's annual "Bands, Brew, and BBQ" concert series.
Depending upon the count, seven or eight acts have pulled out so far, following change.org petition campaigns directed against them. Here's some perspective: Online petitions are probably the laziest form of activism imaginable. It takes next to no effort to gather "signatures" for an online petition. In fact, it's trivial to gin up an infinite number of "sock puppet" accounts to pad a signature total. If you want a better gauge of a movement's strength, look at its ability to put feet in the street or money in the bank.
On those counts, the anti-animal-captivity activists' campaign against SeaWorld has been a dud. Despite dozens of stories promising mass protests of SeaWorld's float at the Macy' Thanksgiving Parade, no significant number of protestors showed up — not enough to generate any major news coverage. SeaWorld beat Wall Street's estimates for the most recent quarter, and analysts have been upgrading the company's stock. With no feet on the street, and no ability to keep SeaWorld from putting money in the bank, all the activists have been able to do is drive bands away from the parks.
And even that, ultimately, might play into SeaWorld's favor. Concert series are one of many gimmicks that year-'round parks use to pump attendance during traditionally slower times of the year. In the summer and at Christmas, fans pack the park, without much need for special promotions. But when school's in session, theme park resorts turn to concert series, food festivals, merchandise events, conventions, and sports events to attract locals and tourists to the parks.
Among these, concert series featuring big-name acts might be the least cost-effective way to drive income in the parks. Participant-driven sports events, such as Disney's various half-marathon weekends, bring in thousands of visitors who pay their own ways to the resort. Conventions do the same for resorts with on-site hotels. Food and merchandise events are the best money-makers, though — attracting visitors looking to spend extra on food, drinks and souvenirs, which raises the park's all-important "average guest spending" number. But with big-name musical acts, the parks have to pay big appearance fees, and more often than not end up attracting visitors whose primary focus in on the band — and not necessarily spending money on extra stuff while in the park. It's nice to fill the park on what would otherwise be a lackluster attendance day, but companies would prefer to fill their parks with freer-spending guests if they could.
If the band boycott prompts SeaWorld to change the event's focus from the "Bands" to the "Brew & BBQ," the activists could be doing SeaWorld a huge favor. If SeaWorld can attract more fans who are coming to spend on food and beer, the company would be better off financially than it would be attracting fans who simply want to see a band. That helps boost park income. And if SeaWorld can keep the park filled while booking lesser-name or no-name musicians to complement the atmosphere, it will save on booking fees, too.
As usual, Disney provides the template. Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival helps pack that park during the otherwise-slow autumn months earning the company millions in additional food and alcohol sales, on top of the increased attendance. When Disney books musical acts to supplement the culinary entertainment, they're almost always no-name cover bands. The test for SeaWorld, therefore, is this: Can it earn more money with a event that skips big-name musical acts in favor of one that emphasizes money-earning food and alcohol sales, instead?
(Let's also pause a moment to note the irony of bands turning their back on SeaWorld over animal rights issues after initially agreeing to play a barbecue festival. That ain't tofu SeaWorld and its restaurant partners are cooking at this event.)
If SeaWorld ends up money ahead after this boycott, not only will it further embarrass the activists, it might also encourage more theme parks across the industry to reconsider the practice of booking big-name bands and celebrities in favor of other types of in-park events. Why spend money on something to promote your park, when you can promote your park with something that earns you money, instead?
Update (Dec. 20): On the animal care issue, SeaWorld finally has responded.
i hope so i like sea world and the work they do to help animals is outstanding,
They are just being extremist. Sea World, along with other zoos and aquariums hold to very high standards, with many checks and balances (& regulators). The educational factor, and awareness that is brought to helping the whole animal population, far outweighs the few incidents that have happened. The tragedies that have happened to trainers have been in situations that they have known could be a possibility when working with wild animals. It is sad that these things happen - it just shouldn't be the focus. Many animals lives have been saved (and, in some ways, some human lives in different ways) through all that goes on in these facilities.
My two inital thoughts were mirrored in this article.
I love how REO pulled out to make a statement. If memory serves me correctly they played a show in a parking lot in Orlando to a crowd of about 200 people a few years ago. Not only will their absence not keep us away, we are considering purchasing annual passes this week because of all the unfair press SeaWorld is receiving.
Did these bands not know that Sea World has Killer Whales and Dolphins when they signed their contracts? If they actually cared about it, they wouldn't have agreed in the first place. To pull out is ridiculous and just shows how shallow and fickle they are.
With the faux protest dropouts, Sea World can now add Phish and Meat Loaf to the lineup. ;>)
Not all bad publicity is good publicity. Bands pulling out of the concert series is bad business. The fans suffer because they don't see the bands that they like. SeaWorld will still take a hit regarding the Blackfish documentary. The activists who call on the boycott is actually hurting the animals. SeaWorld helps wild animals. They are a research institution. If the activists get their way, nature is the only solution and we know what happens then.
Thank you for your article. I think you're right. There are thousands of great bands out there just waiting for an opportunity to showcase somewhere as prestigious as SeaWorld. All they need to do is put the word out.
Anon Mouse - Disney does do concert series. There is Eat to the Beat during The Food and Wine Festival and the Sounds Like Summer series as well.
"Not all bad publicity is good publicity. Bands pulling out of the concert series is bad business. The fans suffer because they don't see the bands that they like. "
Why don't you allow people to post if there is nothing to hide. This is still a democracy where we all have the freedom of speech. We, as compassionate people, know you are doing this only for the money. By disallowing free speech on this blog you are becoming one of the norms by not letting people discuss and debate. Your mere piddling remarks by your paid employees are not helping your cause. $eaworld had a chance to talk about the BlackFish film. They declined. Why? Well I guess you know the answer to that one. Running scared??!! Oh yeah, you all are. Sleep well tonight as the Orcas and Dolphins in captivity will not, in their 20 ft by 20 ft pools, alone without their families. Rest well as you count your money. Happy Holidays and have a most merry Christmas!
I think that SeaWorld will be fine. I've never been to a park specifically to see a group or artist preform. I go to see the animals and it is the best place to see sea animals. Thank you for all you do for the whales that beach themselves on our shores and the manatees that fall ill or get hurt. SeaWorld doesn't need a rock group to ROCK!
Speaking of one-sided; see article and comments above.
Wow how long did it take you to make up this story far fetched story... you would make an excellent SeaPuke employee.... ... LOL
It is too bad Sea World does not just stick to taking care of and educating animals. The movie Blackfish has hurt them because people are seeing a side of Sea World that has never been seen before. And to know how these animals are obtained and forced to do non education and stupid tricks is really starting to make people wake up. I would rather see them as a education facility instead of what I see as animal abuse.
Whose freedom of speech is being silenced? I think it would speak volumes if you signed up for the site and used your real name. I also do not think Robert Niles is making wads of cash off of this.
If you support the kidnapping sentient, intelligent, marine mammal babies for the purpose of human entertainment and are okay with creating a highly unnatural environment where they are deprived of space, family, community, stimulation, and essentially every natural need, then go ahead and support this aqua jail.
These animals suffering at theme parks for our "entertainment" are living, sentient beings. Suggesting that mammals spending their lives in captivity in spaces equivalent to a bathtub, alone (see: Lolita) shouldn't be addressed because there are also places with captive animals like Animal Kingdom doesn't make sense. I'm not sure why addressing one individual or animal's plight becomes less significant when pointing out that there might also be a whole host of other animals suffering, or living in captivity. If the world operated this way, what would be the point of anyone ever doing a good act to help another - as there are always people still doing bad things, and always more people suffering. Why feed one starving child? There are just so many starving children!
Sea World calls his animals ambassadors. They are aware that animals in captivity are not the same as in the wild. They don't have predators and they'll live much longer.
You delete comments, which not agree with your article. This is what´s called censorship. Poor.
Could one of you lovely 'anonymous' posters explain why many the majority of you currently only focus on orcas and primarily SeaWorld? Why does the emotional intelligence or scale of the animal mean they deserve to be more protected than others?
Most of these bands can be found on your local Casino circuit. I'd call these "B" list bands playing for no cover at places like Hard Rock and Magic City Casino in Miami. So it's not only the theme parks that are trying to use "B" list bands to draw in more attendance, it's casinos.
I think that your thesis with regards to this article is merely wishful thinking, or perhaps an attempt to spin some positive out of the several negatives erupting over SeaWorld via the public interest in Blackfish.
Here's some advice for most of the anonymous posters:
Hi I just want to answer Ashleigh
Hi I just want to answer Ashleigh
I'm going to type slowly so the activist will be able to understand how the real world works.
Yes, but I think what Robert is saying is that a park generally full of middle-aged/retired persons (given school is in session) would prefer the Beatles or the Rolling Stones in comparison to any other musical act that could possibly be scheduled to play. Therefore, it is both more ergonomical and economical to book a cover band. I saw that Disney employed this practice every single night of the recent Food and Wine Festival.
@Daniela and Verity. Thank you for joining the site. Since Robert Niles will no longer be able to "partner" with Sea World, he needs all of the traffic to the site he can get so he can replace that lost income with advertising revenue.
As always, Robert Niles leads the way in providing thought-provoking writing to the theme park world. I swear, Robert is probably THE best expert and journalist covering the theme park world there ever has been. I never see anyone with the unique take on issues he has. We are lucky to have TPI to read.
I just emailed this to yet another reader complaining that everyone in the world hasn't rolled over to the anti-animal-captivity position:
One more thing: If you read it closely, you'll notice that there's nothing in this article that defends SeaWorld. In fact, there's an implicit attack on the company in there - that SeaWorld's foolishly stuck with an inefficient promotion in booking expensive "name" bands for its festival and that only a coordinated campaign by anti-captivity activists might push them toward a more profitable alternative.
So many scared fools using digital courage… Bla bla bla…
After reading most of the responses to this post, I think I've discovered the perfect set of people to compete and lose to a literally retarded debate team.
Did you use lite mayo or regular mayo on the sandwich?
Hahahah - Nice one Tim, And it was Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise...
That was bad. You should have used the lite mayo.
Champ, how much did you get payed for this "article"/advertisement? SlaeWrold spends millions to advertise (and pay people like you) their business of enslavement, torture and killing (yes dolphin caught but not sold to slavery are killed in Taiji, Japan). We Humans, animal right activists or concerned citizen do not have that amount of money, but we have our Love and creativity to counterbalance the monstrosity of SlaveWorld. We also hold protest outside SlaveWorld, talk to our friends, boycott movies such as Anchorman 2 featuring SlaWorld :-) I have a nice t-shirt which says "seaworld sucks" and I wear it in conjuction with my Sea Shepherd t-shirts. I donate monthly to Sea Shepherd and I am a Cove Guardian, having been on the Taiji Dolphin-defense campaign. See we do a whole lot more than change.org. Wake up! Open minds will dominate!!!
Bravo Robert Morris! You are awesome!
Thanks for this article and your carefully thought out comments Robert, I have always enjoyed reading this site. As a grunt in the theme park industry (I don't work for a park but in the ticketing business), I have to say that I have not seen any drops in Sea World attendance, rather a massive increase in the last few months ticket wise so this "protest" is not working to me.
As an animal right advocate I take offense to be called lazy - I work a full-time job, then I go home and work a second job which helps pay for all the animal rights activities I support and endorse. I am not lazy!
List of Mammals in intelligence:
Ask yourself this.
There's some disturbing trends out there, indicating that the "Blackfish" wave is far from over.
Ask yourself this.
No one does more for wild animals and wild places than SeaWorld. They are the reason orcas are no longer shot as pests over most of their range because we were introduced to them at SeaWorld. We know supporting the park also supports conservation and will be doing so with or without these washed up acts!
As I said if you own a Dog, Cat, Fish, Turtle, Monkey, Bird, Goat, Hamster and so forth; you are now on the same level as SeaWorld. You took an animal away from its family and out of the wild.
After re-reading some of the animal rights activists posts on this thread, I can only wonder what Robert had to filter out. Some of these folks are totally out of touch with reality, which is a shame since there are abuses which occur throughout the world. I just don't see these abuses or any significant level of abuse occurring at Sea World. Like Robert has said, an evidence-based argument on how animal exhibits could do a better job of protecting wildlife would be welcome on this site, but I haven't seen it yet.
funny thing happened on FB
Robert, I forgot to mention that in addition to having the power to talk to animals and being able to perform the Vulcan mind meld, animal rights activists also have the power of x-ray vision. Yep, they can see right through your clothes, even in pictures. Your complaining FB animal rights zealot probably forgot to turn his superpower off when he was looking at your pictures and thus it was only an honest mistake. You really shouldn't be too bothered by the whole thing because he was only trying to save the world from seeing pictures of naked people with their clothes on.
SeaWorld responds on animal care accusations:
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