Well, SeaWorld, this is embarrassing. Since the marine-park chain was accused by the documentary Blackfish of animal-rights violations and blamed for a number of SeaWorld trainer deaths, you'd think public opinion of the brand would be faltering. Not so, according to an online Orlando Business Journal poll: 99 percent of respondents said that their perception of SeaWorld hadn't changed following the documentary Blackfish. Orlando, Fla. is SeaWorld's hometown, so that kinda-sorta-maybe made sense — until the Journal discovered that more than half of the votes had come from a SeaWorld IP address. Busted!
Seaworld's problems began in earnest in early 2012 when the Netflix-distributed documentary Blackfish was released. The damning documentary accused SeaWorld of robbing orcas from their families, keeping them in "bathtub" equivalents for decades, and then being surprised when the orcas attacked and killed trainers.
SeaWorld's attendance figures subsequently sank. When SeaWorld tried to bring an orca float to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, people began protesting. At least eight musicians backed out of SeaWorld's February concert series. Somewhere, SeaWorld face-palmed.
All this drama is likely why the Orlando Business Journal ran the online poll: "Has CNN's 'Blackfish' documentary changed your perception of SeaWorld?" A whale-sized 99 percent of respondents replied "no." The Journal thought something felt fishy about the results, so they had a look into where the votes came from. Turns out 54 percent of the 328 votes were from SeaWorld HQ in Orlando, according to the IP address.
But imagine our surprise when we noticed that one single Internet Protocol Address (IP Address) accounted for more than 54 percent of the votes, or about 180 of the total 328 votes. IP Addresses are typically unique Internet identifiers given to a computer or series of devices — say a multi-computer network in your office.
SeaWorld promptly hit back: "It's important to note we have more than 6,000 team members in Orlando, between three parks and our company headquarters," said spokesman Nick Gollattscheck. "Our team members have strong feelings about their park and company and we encourage them to make their opinions known."
Ironically, the speakers in Blackfish were largely former SeaWorld trainers who also had strong feelings about the park, and certainly made their feelings known.
Here's the weird thing. Even without those 180 votes from SeaWorld HQ, the poll proved that SeaWorld still has a ton of support in Orlando. Although attendance has decreased, the marine-park chain is actually making more
money: SeaWorld declared three percent more revenue this past quarter than it did in the same quarter in 2012.
"Our performance was driven by strong results at our SeaWorld branded parks, continued benefits from our pricing and yield management efforts, and effective cost management,” humble-bragged SeaWorld president Jim Atchison. Meanwhile, petitions from PETA, Change.org, and, um, Alec Baldwin continue to multiply.
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