The Welsh National Opera (WNO) is a Wales based opera company which performs award-winning operas throughout 10 cities in both Wales and England. The company seek to engage both new and old generations of opera lovers, all while maintaining accessibility through affordable ticket prices.

In 2008, WolfBrown and Baker Richards Consulting were hired by WNO to identify audience segments based on attitudes and preferences, with the overall goal of informing WNO’s marketing efforts. The research also sought to identify a group who aspires to attend the opera more frequently, and are positively inclined to do so. Those who hold this potential were labeled the “winnable middle ground”. By highlighting this group the WNO team would be able to refine their customer model to effectively market this group.

The sample was constructed across four theaters in which the WNO performs and between three buyer types: those who are loyal, those who have the potential to be won, and those who are infrequent and are not likely to increase their attendance. Bookers from selected seasons were extracted from the box office systems of each venue and sent either an online or postal survey. The results from the surveys were then matched with frequency data from the booker data base. A cluster analysis was then performed on the attitudinal data in order to group the respondents into six segments. The segments were as different as possible across the spectrum and as similar as possible within each one, then ordered by appetite for artistic risk. Each segment was then compared and contrasted amongst the others to help identify the variables and highlight those who falls into the “winnable middle ground” category.

The surveys had an overall response rate of 30%, with 20% of the respondents being a part of the “winnable middle ground”. Within this “winnable middle ground” group, there was further division amongst those who are winnable from either art form or socially motivated perspectives towards opera attendance. Those who are art form focused must be somewhat passionate about the opera, but are generally inexperienced and aspire to attend more. Others seek out the operas through the desire of social fulfillment or wanting to celebrate a special occasion at the opera. Winnable bookers generally tend to be inexperienced when it comes to the opera, but desire the opportunity to grow.

While much attention is paid to the “winnable middle ground”, there is an overall desire to focus on catering to all of the segments, also through art form and social appeal. There is an opportunity to develop a spectrum of marketing approaches that is sensitive to the different levels of knowledge and interest amongst the WNO audiences. By breaking their audience into several segments, and investigating them at a deeper level the WNO would be able to create a multi-faceted approach towards improving the quality of their customer model.