Norwegians are wild about skiing. They watch it on TV, read about it in the newspaper and on cross-country skiing Web sites, and talk about it over lunch. More importantly, most Norwegians actually ski.

In a market saturated with skiing, how do you create something new and different for this audience?

Dagbladet tapped into the growing market of fantasy sporting leagues and created Fantaski. Each Fantaski “player” has a budget to “hire” six male and six female skiers to create their fantasy team.

The initial idea came just after the Nordic World Championships in Lahti 2017. Our online stories from Lahti generated an overwhelming response. People read more and longer stories than ever before, and cross country was the catalyst for the record-breaking readership.

We wondered if it would be possible to create an online game entirely devoted to cross country — while at the same time letting players use their own extensive knowledge to excel and ultimately wining the toughest race we could possibly throw at them.

The key factor was putting together a set of rules to create an unequal battleground — unequal in the sense that the more knowledge a player has and the more cross-country articles they read on our Web site or other cross-country publications, the better equipped they are to compete. And because Norwegian skiers dominate the field, the challenge is determining who else will rack up world cup points.

Dagbladet carefully crafted the rules for Fantaski to ensure that it would be exciting and challenging for all players — even those with extensive knowledge about cross country.
Dagbladet carefully crafted the rules for Fantaski to ensure that it would be exciting and challenging for all players — even those with extensive knowledge about cross country.

To balance all of this and make Fantastic challenging for everyone, we decided to allow a maximum of two skiers per country and of each sex in any round. In addition, Fantaski players were forced to choose at least two of each sex that could be hired at a lower price than the average world cup skier.

From the get-go, Fantaski racked up nearly 10,000 players. We invited the most well-known cross-country experts in Norway to compete and invited every other player to compete against them in separate leagues.

In addition to the full competition, where everyone participates by registering their teams, the players could also join other smaller leagues or create their own.

Typically, cross country interest peaks during big events such as the Olympics or a World Championship, so we also opened a competition within the competition during Austria’s Seefeld games in February. By isolating those 12 races, but keeping the points earned in the total competition, we arranged our own Fantaski world championship. This generated 5,000 additional teams and took the game to nearly 15,000 players. Readership for cross-country stories on our Web site broke new records during the championships too.

And all of this was accomplished without a cent in marketing expenses, leading us to say without a doubt that our first fantasy ski season was a success. Even active skiers on the world cup circuit are playing Fantaski, and in our book it doesn’t get more fantastic than that.