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Sara Levinson knows a few things about marketing larger-than-life entertainment. As the former president of MTV, she's had to package and push icons like Madonna and Michael Jackson to the masses.

So it's not surprising that as president of NFL Properties, Advertising Age's 1995 Promotional Marketer of the Year, Ms. Levinson is inflating football's pro profile.

"Last year was the beginning of a larger effort to take all our resources and create bigger bangs for our sponsors' bucks," says Ms. Levinson. "It's fitting; the NFL is a larger-than-life entertainment."

In 1995, NFLP encouraged and helped sponsors turn their promotions into events. A few weeks into the season, Shell Oil Co. launched its biggest NFL program ever, a sweepstakes that boasted Coca-Cola Co. and other NFL sponsors as tie-in partners.

That was topped by Visa USA's "Call for Quarterbacks" sweepstakes, which saw more than 40 million registrants vying for the chance to attend the Super Bowl as an honorary backup quarterback.

True Value Hardware Stores took the underdeveloped "Man of the Year Award" and turned it into a major media and grass-roots initiative.

Ms. Levinson also pressed NFLP into youth marketing and integrated marketing. Last year, NFLP launched "Play Football," designed to mold the next generation of NFL consumers.

Such marketing is requiring NFLP to partner and focus on companies with more muscle. Ms. Levinson says the NFL's latest sponsorship deal-a $29 million-a-year agreement with Sprint-sets a new standard for NFL marketing.

Now if only Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will play ball...

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