Miami Dolphins Sever Business Partnership With SeaWorld

Protesters at the March for Lolita in Miami.
Protesters at the March for Lolita in Miami.
Photo by George Martinez

The Miami Dolphins finally did something right, it would seem.

After a three-year relationship with SeaWorld, the Dolphins are ending their marketing partnership with the theme park. For SeaWorld, it's yet another company that has broken ties. Southwest Airlines, Virgin America, STA Travel, Hyndai, and Taco Bell have all distanced themselves.

Just last year, animal rights groups were calling the Dolphins out for promoting SeaWorld as a way to entice people to become season ticket holders.

The Dolphins presented the opportunity to get certain perks for people who became season ticket holders. They offered a myriad of package deals, including yacht parties and discounts to restaurants; those who bought a suite/club level package were sent to Orlando to SeaWorld.

Back then, the Dolphins' chief revenue officer, Jeremy Walls, likened the season ticket perks to being "part of a country club, a church, or a high-end gym membership."

It was all part of an ambitious marketing partnership with SeaWorld that began in 2012 and was originally promoted with a photo of star defensive end Jason Taylor and his family in wetsuits posing inside what looks like a dolphin-petting pen.

The ending of the relationship was announced by SeaWorld on Thursday in a statement that tried to sound as pragmatic as possible, without bringing up the fact that other companies have severed ties also.

"Due to shifting business priorities of both companies, a new [partnership] will not be created," SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides said in an email. "The Dolphins were great partners, and we wish them well this offseason."

The Dolphins themselves have not commented on why the partnership is ending, but it's possible they're moving on in part for the same reasons companies like Southwest Airlines have: the backlash from customers who are demanding SeaWorld end their cruel captivity practices.

SeaWorld has spent the better part of a year trying to plow through mounting public criticism, plummeting stock, and corporate sponsors abandoning them, all due to the public awareness of its captive orcas brought upon by the popular documentary Blackfish, a film that depicts the cruelty and dangers of keeping killer whales in captivity.

Last April, SeaWorld reported 3.05 million people went through its parks' gates in the first three months of 2014, which was a 13 percent drop in attendance compared to the corresponding period in 2013.

In December, CEO Jim Atchison announced that he's stepping down this year. The company followed that announcement by saying it was cutting jobs to save $50 million a year.

Also in the past year, popular music acts, from Willie Nelson to the Bare Naked Ladies, canceled scheduled gigs at a SeaWorld music festival.

Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph. Follow Chris Joseph on Twitter

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