Under Phil Knight, Nike defined what brand marketing could be and transformed sports as a business.
He famously created the shoe company Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964, renaming it Nike in 1972 and growing it into a multibillion-dollar athletic apparel company. Under his leadership, which spanned more than 30 years, Nike broke ground on many fronts—from developing new shoe styles and sporting equipment and apparel, to creating what is arguably the world's most successful and innovative marketing machine.
(Read more: Who mattered & who didn't over 25 years)
Nike pioneered celebrity athlete endorsements and set the bar for effective brand marketing. Whether it was the "Just Do It" slogan or huge endorsement deals, such as signing Michael Jordan in 1984 and branding Air Jordan sneakers, Knight made "the swoosh" one of the most recognizable symbols on earth.
Howard Schultz is single-handedly responsible for the world's modern coffee culture—the way we consume and experience coffee. Before Schultz, we made the beverage from a can of Folgers in our cupboards.
He joined Starbucks Coffee in 1982, eventually buying the Seattle company for $4 million and, inspired by a European trip, turning it into a concept based on Italian caffe. Expanding Starbucks from 45 stores to more than 19,000 today, he created a global juggernaut.
The company struggled after Schultz stepped down as CEO in 2000, so he re-emerged in 2008 to turn it around.
Through a series of cost cuts, investments in innovation and store redesigns, along with introductions such as VIA instant coffee and Pike Place Roast, he put Starbucks back on sound footing. He continued to expand globally and eventually into categories such as juice, yogurt, pastries and tea. He's now increasingly focused on digital media and mobile payments.