Celebrities Are Jumping Ship
As you can tell from this 2010 photo of Justin Bieber, visits from celebrities — and the implicit endorsements those visits carry — are quite important to SeaWorld. Each time the company nets a well-known name, the celebrity poses for photos with animals, and then SeaWorld sends those photos to the press and wire services.
Over the last year, entertainers have shown little affection for SeaWorld. Photo wire records show fewer celebrity visits, and the chain has been hit by tweets from a number of high-profile personalities.
While celebrities have long been active in the fight for animal rights, avoiding a theme park is a far smaller request than, say, becoming a vegetarian. And not only has celebrity reluctance hurt in theory, it's also hit SeaWorld where it really hurts: the wallet.
In December, several major acts pulled out of concerts that were scheduled to be held at the parks, including Willie Nelson, Martina McBride, and The Barenaked Ladies. As popular touring groups, their absence — and rebuke — isn't helping to bring visitors through the gates.
Update: This post now includes SeaWorld's response to the "Orlando Business Journal" polling controversy.