It's been a rough year for SeaWorld - at least in terms of press. Back in January, a documentary called Blackfish premiered at Sundance and caught fire. That documentary focused on Tilikum, an orca residing at SeaWorld, Orlando, and condemned the treatment of orcas in captivity.
The film centers around the death of Dawn Brancheau, a SeaWorld trainer, who was killed by the 6-ton whale in 2010. Tilikum has been involved in the deaths of two trainers and one SeaWorld guest.
Amid the controversy, SeaWorld has faced a slew of recent cancellations, with many musical acts backing out of the park's "Bands, Brew and BBQ" concert series. Just today, a California school announced that they would be canceling their long-standing SeaWorld trip due to concerns unearthed in the Blackfish documentary.
Now, the company is turning to Groupon.
SeaWorld Orlando is currently running a 40% deal with groupon - offering tickets for $59 each (down from nearly $100). The deal is running until the end of 2013, and tickets purchased will be valid until March 31st, 2014.
They're also running sponsored posts for the deal on Facebook.
Apparently, SeaWorld is looking to expand the deals but isn't banking on Groupon to play a huge role in future revenue. From the Orlando Sentinel:
A SeaWorld spokesman said Wednesday that the company is "testing" Groupon at SeaWorld Orlando with some "limited-time offers." The company has also used Groupon at several of its 10 other parks around the country, including SeaWorld San Antonio and Busch Gardens theme parks in Tampa and Williamsburg, Va.
"We don't see it playing a meaningful role in our current or future distribution strategy," SeaWorld spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said.
SeaWorld has faced immense backlash following the release of Blackfish. In a public response a couple of months ago, the company called the film "inaccurate and misleading."
"Blackfish is billed as a documentary, but instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau's family, friends and colleagues.
To promote its bias that killer whales should not be maintained in a zoological setting, the film paints a distorted picture that withholds from viewers key facts about SeaWorld -- among them, that SeaWorld is one of the world's most respected zoological institutions, that SeaWorld rescues, rehabilitates and returns to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and that SeaWorld commits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research.
Perhaps most important, the film fails to mention SeaWorld's commitment to the safety of its team members and guests and to the care and welfare of its animals, as demonstrated by the company's continual refinement and improvement to its killer whale facilities, equipment and procedures both before and after the death of Dawn Brancheau," said a SeaWorld spokesperson.
The Groupon deal will be valid for tickets during the Bands, Brew & BBQ festival - assuming there are any musical acts left. SeaWorld says that they are continuing to book replacements.