Bridging the membership gap for Glyndebourne

Glyndebourne Opera – situated in the heart of the South Downs National Park – is one of the most highly regarded opera companies in the world. 

The Glyndebourne team asked Morris Hargreaves McIntyre to investigate how they could engage with 30 to 45-year-olds, with a goal of winning them as Associate Members and establishing a life-long relationship.  

MHM's blend of marketing, arts and research experience meant that they intuitively understood our challenge from the start.

- Simon Hardinge Tapp, Audience Insight Manager, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd

Take-up of the Glyndebourne’s free Under 30s membership scheme, which provides members with £30 tickets to selected Glyndebourne Festival performances, was robust. However, very few members were engaging with Glyndebourne once they turned 30 and graduated from the free scheme.

New Associate Members (the first level of Glyndebourne membership) tended to join around the age of 45, meaning there was a fifteen-year gap in the age of Glyndebourne’s audiences.

Exploring Glyndebourne's relationship with younger members

To understand what was causing Glyndebourne’s membership gap and identify a strategy for closing it, MHM needed to understand more about Under 30s members’ relationship with Glyndebourne and the personal benefits they enjoyed from this.

We convened an audience forum, inviting current and graduated members of the Under 30s scheme to participate in focus groups, workshop activities and mapping exercises to examine all the factors at play. 

The forum explored Under 30s members’ personal motivations for attending Glyndebourne, why they chose it above other available experiences, and the nuances of their brand relationship with the organisation.

We looked at how the Under 30s envisaged their relationship with Glyndebourne over the next twenty years and the factors that would influence its course.

An opportunity to deepen Brand Equity

Both current and graduated Under 30s members felt extremely positive towards Glyndebourne. They were clearly able to articulate what made the offering special and unavailable elsewhere.

They loved the combination of artistic excellence, the indulgent, social experience of dressing up, and picnicking with friends in an rural oasis outside the city. While logistical aspects like transport required some effort, a clear value proposition made it worth it.

However, few participants of the Under 30s scheme felt like true ‘members’ of something. Glyndebourne was missing the chance to build a strong brand relationship through the scheme. 

Many graduates of the Under 30s scheme fully intended to return to Glyndebourne in future but they were currently busy thirty-somethings immersed in other priorities. The next step for them, Associate Membership, was too much of a commitment right now. They would like to continue to attend the Glyndebourne Festival (albeit less often) but confessed they would likely have to settle for something more affordable and convenient for the time being.

Finding the right solution to build long-lasting member relationships

We investigated a number of potential solutions through the audience forum – inviting participants to co-curate a solution that would be mutually beneficial to them and the organisation – fulfilling the objectives of both. The clear winner was some form of bridging membership scheme. 

Using the insights gathered from the forum exercises and discussions, we were able to describe what type of bridging scheme would most appeal to the graduates of the Under 30s scheme: the tangible and intangible benefits that would help them build Brand Equity, retain them through this life stage and eventually convert them to high-value Glyndebourne members. 

It also highlighted the importance of a strategic communications plan to underpin this approach and provide clarity around the value proposition. Glyndebourne now has a comprehensive strategy to create rewarding lifelong relationships with its Under 30s members – well beyond the lifecycle of the scheme.

Turning recommendations into actions

In line with Morris Hargreaves McIntyre’s recommendations, Glyndebourne has adjusted Under 30s e-communications messaging to emphasise the purpose of the communication and highlight the benefits members receive from attending the Festival (a sense of belonging to something, and a unique experience) – strengthening their brand relationship.

The newsletter signposts it is for Under 30s members and provides clear information on how to access remaining priority tickets for the Festival – including details on a further release of tickets.

Messaging around the unique Festival experience for members reminds them of the social benefits they stand to gain and builds excitement for the main event - helping to build their Brand Equity with Glyndebourne and strengthening their relationship with the organisation.

Want to know how we can help you retain audiences and members? Contact jo.taylor@mhminsight.com

All images except Audience Forum copyright Glyndebourne
Audience Forum image copyright Morris Hargreaves McIntyre


Jo is the lead consultant for key clients on projects such as segmentation and branding; empowering...

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