John Hogan – the man behind major sponsor-related deals that changed the face of Formula 1 – has died of COVID-19 at the age of 76.
Best known for his work with Phillip Morris, Hogan was central to the sponsorship deals that led to Marlboro backing McLaren and Ferrari in F1, as well as aiding the careers of the likes of James Hunt and Emerson Fittipaldi, and being involved in title wins for Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna after facilitating Ron Dennis taking over at McLaren.
Born in Australia, spells living in Japan and Singapore followed due to his father’s time in the army. Hogan then moved to England for schooling where his introduction to Formula 1 events was the non-championship Aintree 200 in 1957. He eventually started working for advertising agency Erwin Wasey, getting involved in the Coca-Cola account and being asked to look into the benefits of motor racing sponsorship.
As word spread that Hogan was involved in sponsorship and knew the F1 world, he was sought out by Hunt – then racing in junior categories – who was looking for backing, ultimately providing a connection that led to Hunt securing a McLaren drive in place of Fittipaldi in 1975.
Hogan had joined cigarette and tobacco company Phillip Morris in September 1973, when its Marlboro brand had already done sponsorship deals with BRM and Williams and focused on a multi-national driver line-up. However, with BRM struggling, Hogan moved Marlboro’s sponsorship to McLaren in 1974 – Denny Hulme winning the first race of the season for the team and Fittipaldi going on to secure the drivers’ championship as the team won the constructors’ title.
Fittipaldi surprised McLaren by leaving but Hunt was selected as his replacement and Hogan agreed the deal with the British driver, despite telling the MotorSport Magazine podcast that he preferred the alternative option of Jacky Ickx at the time.
As traditional tobacco advertising became more restricted, the avenue of motor sport sponsorship grew just before F1 became widely televised, and spending increased greatly. That led to iconic liveries on both the McLaren and later Ferrari cars, while Hogan’s relationship with Fittipaldi and respect for Penske’s approach to racing led to a similar partnership in CART that started in 1990.
On top of sponsoring drivers and teams, Hogan also had a hand in the ownership of McLaren when he convinced Marlboro to provide financial backing to Dennis and his Project Four team to take over the F1 outfit in 1980. The sponsorship of McLaren continued until 1996, then switching fully to Ferrari ahead of its huge period of success with Michael Schumacher.
The Marlboro World Championship team also supported a number of junior drivers including the likes of Mika Hakkinen, Eddie Irvine and Andrea de Cesaris, and had further team sponsorships with Alfa Romeo and Scuderia Italia among other smaller team deals.
Hogan left Philip Morris in 2002, and after a brief spell as sporting director of Jaguar in F1 he maintained links to the sport as a consultant at marketing agency CSM, who acquired now-McLaren boss Zak Brown’s Just Marketing International (JMI) in 2013.
“Deeply saddened by John Hogan passing away this morning after a brave battle with the effects of COVID,” Brown posted on Sunday night. “John was a gentleman, a pioneer and a legend of motorsport and Formula 1. On a personal level he was a brilliant mentor and friend.”