If you happened to catch "Monday Night Football" on October 23, you may have spotted a huge orange football helmet sitting just behind the visitors' bench. That was actually the official NFL doghouse. And just how did the NFL wind up with a doghouse? There hangs a tale.
The Helmut Hut, as it's known, is the creation of Domation Inc., an Inc. 500 company in Columbus, Ga. Founders Rick Marshall and Randy Marshall (who aren't related) never intended to be in the doghouse business. Domation makes polyurethane roofs for commercial and industrial buildings, as well as some domes. To introduce people to the virtues of domed structures, the Marshalls built a small model and displayed it at a local exposition in 1985. It generated scant interest, except among children. Several people suggested Domation get into playhouses and doghouses. "We kind of laughed," says Randy.
By 1988, however, Domation was test-marketing prototypes of dog domes. Someone noted that they looked like giant football helmets. Why not paint one in the colors of the University of Georgia Bulldogs? The Marshalls did, and it was selected as a prize for an alumni event. Then, last June, Randy happened to show a photo of the helmet doghouse to a man from Cleveland, who suggested he take the idea to the Cleveland Browns. After all, how many teams have a "dog-pound cheering section" where fans sit and bark?
Within a few weeks Domation had a deal with the Browns, a Cleveland radio station, and a dog-food company to sponsor the Cleveland Browns Honorary Mascot program. Then the NFL decided to feature the Helmut Hut in a special pet catalog it's bringing out. Domation now expects to sell about 8,000 Helmut Huts in 1990 (at $199 each). As for those energy-efficient full-size modular prefabricated domes, the Marshalls are hoping to have them in production by 1998.
-- Bruce G. Posner* * *