Although the first SeaWorld theme park was established more than 50 years ago and the company has always branded itself on merchandise sold within the parks, the consumer licensing efforts of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment have begun to swell only in the past three years. Now with approximately 300 products from 30 licensees, the wave of the company’s future licensing efforts is likely to become a tsunami of branding.
Already SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment licenses toys, books, apparel, games, movies and back-to-school items. It also is licensing animal crackers at Walmart, a new Hasbro Monopoly game, and at Christmas, three new Barbie dolls from Mattel. SeaWorld has branded merchandise at Toys ‘R’ Us, Walgreens, and in 2014, in 1,200 Petco stores with products for aquatic pets and domestic animals such as dogs and cats.
“We’re excited because Petco is a like-minded company that shares our commitment to conservation and education,” says Deana Duffek, SeaWorld’s corporate director for licensing products. That is what SeaWorld seeks in a licensing partner, she says. A portion of consumer product sales benefits the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, a nonprofit foundation that supports wildlife research, habitat protection and conservation education.
“Throughout our product development initiatives, we’re looking to really expand on the sustainable products,” Duffek says. “We also like to make conservation education fun, so entertaining and engaging would be our second tier of that.”
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has 11 theme parks in the United States under the brands of SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place. They attracted more than 24 million guests in 2012. In 2011, the company began licensing consumer products under its brands and extending them into movies, television and digital media.
To expand the company’s brand, SeaWorld is offering a free game download for the iPhone and iPad called “Turtle Trek.” It is a forward-motion game in which the gamer helps a sea turtle navigate through a variety of challenges with the help of characters Shamu the killer whale and Nyah the green sea turtle. The game can be upgraded to higher levels for a fee.
“We are in development on several other digital games right now,” SeaWorld’s Chief Creative Officer Scott Helmstedter announces. “We are looking at how we can expand the brand through these platforms. They are a great opportunity to reach our audience in a completely different way.”
SeaWorld uses Facebook and Twitter along with its website to engage consumers fully with a digital presence. “We’re excited about exploring the mobile side, whether console or online gaming geared to kids and families,” Helmstedter emphasizes.
“Technology in the digital space is going to be a top driver of our consumer products division as we move forward,” Duffek pledges.
This fall, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment will premiere a new network television series titled “The Wildlife Docs” that will show the care and medical procedures that the 12,000 exotic animals at Busch Gardens Tampa receive. “The Wildlife Docs” joins the third season of “SeaWorld’s Sea Rescue with Sam Champion,” which is SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment’s other program on Litton’s Weekend Adventure Saturday morning block of programs.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is considering additional expansion of licensees in areas such as apparel, back-to-school products, games and toys. “We want a quality product out there,” Helmstedter emphasizes. “We are approached often by many licensees, and we are very lucky to be somewhat selective to a certain extent, as much as we can be in a growing business.”
The company has been educating its audiences and customers about wildlife and conservation through publishing for years, and now is producing e-books. “We’re looking at other print materials in terms of publishing, whether kids’ books, educational books and things like puzzles and crossovers between the toy and publishing side,” Helmstedter declares. “We’re very excited about that. We love to entertain, but at the same time, we feel very strongly about educating and inspiring our audiences.”
The company has a long history of educating about conservation. “We were green before it was cool to be green,” Duffek points out. “Right now is the time when retailers are really wanting to be a part of something that shows a broader initiative for conservation, and we’ve been doing that. We’ve had grassroots efforts for many years. It’s nice to be able to put the partner with us so they can grow with our credibility.”