SeaWorld decline is slow but persistent

Ted MarzilliCEO YouGov Direct
January 09, 2014, 1:55 AM GMT+0

Since its cable television debut on CNN on October 24th, the SeaWorld-targeted documentary “Blackfish” has prompted schools to cancel their trips there, artists to call off their performances, and it even caused a recent controversy of ballot-stuffing accusations in an online Orlando Business Journal poll.

Yet, SeaWorld’s perception damage has been comparatively far milder than other recent major crises in the news.

First, a look at the impact of “Blackfish” on SeaWorld’s consumer perception since one year ago: when the documentary screened to acclaim and notice last January at the Sundance Film Festival, nothing registered on YouGov BrandIndex’s perception metrics. Even when the film opened in limited release on July 19th, SeaWorld took a substantial but not horrific month-long blow and then rebounded right through October.

But more recently, CNN’s multiple airings coincided with SeaWorld perception reversing course, this time to its lowest levels since the beginning of 2013 in three of YouGov BrandIndex’s key measurements: Buzz ("If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?"), Reputation ("Would you be proud or embarrassed to work for this brand?"), and Impression ("Do you have a general positive feeling about the brand?").

However, instead of the usual sharp drop a brand takes when a crisis hits, SeaWorld has been on a steady, gradual decline since October that has not reached anywhere near the instantaneous depths of other recent crises, such as Target’s data breach and Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries’ controversial comments.

For example, SeaWorld’s Buzz score has fallen from an 11 in July to zero now, but Target lost 35 points in a few days after its credit card breach went public late last month. Even SeaWorld’s Reputation score, which measures being proud or not to work for a brand, took a lengthy five months – from early August through now – to decline from 34 to 21, still far above the zero mark.

YouGov BrandIndex’s Buzz and Reputation scores ranges from 100 to -100 and are compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback.

SeaWorld: Buzz, Impression, Reputation