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Special Olympics International Shares Mission Worldwide with PhotoShelter

PhotoShelter serves as Special Olympics’ one-stop shop for digital media and helps drive donations and inspire volunteers worldwide.

  • 4M+ athletes and coaches worldwide
  • 1.2M+ collective followers on social media
  • 36k+ assets downloaded every 6 months on average

From Summer Campers to International Competitors

Though well-known today, Special Olympics International had humble beginnings as a summer camp for children with intellectual disabilities hosted in founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s backyard. Today, 3 million athletes and 1 million coaches and volunteers participate in Special Olympics programs, which provide year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

The Challenge: Collaborating Across Tools and Time Zones

Prior to adopting PhotoShelter, Special Olympics’ global headquarters was using a combination of fragmented systems to manage its digital assets, according to VP of Content and Storytelling Sydnye White and Director of Digital Communications Shawn Byrne. They faced a few major obstacles in their day-to-day workflow, which impacted their ability to get out content in real-time:

  • Too many tools made searches time-consuming. Special Olympics has an extensive archive of images and videos used for fundraising initiatives, social media posts, marketing campaigns, and news stories. Before PhotoShelter, the team had to manually dig through 50+ years of content on Flickr, Smugmug, and internal servers.
  • No easy way to share assets with stakeholders. On top of all the tools Special Olympics was using to store assets, the team was using a separate tool, Dropbox, to send photo and gallery links to stakeholders. However, their colleagues in China couldn’t access Dropbox. That meant Sydnye had to use yet another tool, WeTransfer, to make sure everyone who needed access to assets was covered.
  • Workflow hang ups hurt campaign efforts. With no centralized digital asset management system (DAM), the organization’s network of employees and volunteers struggled to easily coordinate pre-event promotions and asset distribution during or following events. Special Olympics’ communications staff had to coordinate asset approvals via emails, which got buried in inboxes between time zones.

“We have seven different regions around the world that supply information to us every day, on different platforms, in different formats. Content is coming from all different directions. We receive content in advance, but a lot of the time it’s in real time. So, everything needs to be in one dedicated spot.”

Shawn Byrne, Director of Digital Communications, Special Olympics

The Solution: A DAM System that Supports a Worldwide Workflow

Sydnye and other leaders recognized that centralizing tools and streamlining their workflow would improve team productivity and help campaigns be more successful. With PhotoShelter, Special Olympics can upload, store, search, and share all their assets — from photos and videos to pre-event how-to guides for volunteers — in one centralized system.

  • 24/7 access to a centralized DAM platform. Now, the organization’s distributed network of employees and volunteers can easily collaborate with each other no matter where (or when) in the world they are. Galleries and folders help streamline event prep, approvals, and distribution to any of Special Olympics’ internal or external stakeholders.
  • Facilitating media coverage and brand exposure. With curated and easily updated galleries in PhotoShelter, the organization can ensure that media organizations anywhere in the world have access to photos for breaking news about events and competitions. That gives the organization a better chance of receiving coverage, which increases brand visibility.
  • Driving volunteer participation and corporate donations. Housing all the best and most-used Special Olympics assets in PhotoShelter helps the communications team create the best content possible for marketing and fundraising campaigns to drive donations and inspire volunteers.

“News is now… It is certainly not news 24 hours later. It’s important that we have editors in different time zones that can keep feeding the media assets that are captioned, tagged, and organized. They don’t have to go search somewhere else. They know there’s a one-stop shop for Special Olympics all the time, no matter where in the world they are.”

Sydnye White, VP of Content and Storytelling, Special Olympics

A Better Way to Do Unified Work

For Special Olympics, digital asset management is about something bigger than beautiful visuals — it’s about empowering people with intellectual disabilities to find joy, confidence, and fulfillment. With PhotoShelter, Special Olympics is able to work more effectively toward its mission every day.

“Because it’s very easy to use, our athlete employees are able to use it as well. So, it’s a way that we can do Unified work jointly with people with and without intellectual disabilities, bringing us together into a workflow.”

Sydnye White, VP of Content and Storytelling, Special Olympics

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