First off, prestige (of one kind or another) has always been a factor in capitalist consumption. Saying that “At one point in human history, products were bought and sold for their utility,” is simply glorifying and simplifying the past; it’s employing revisionist history.
There is no reason that the choice Nike has made has to be binary; it is quite possible that someone in Nike’s marketing system thought that this would be a good idea and sold it to management with that story and a good set of numbers (sales projections).
So Nike is using pop cultural dramas to sell their product? Take it from a 30-year marketer, they are just the latest of thousands of companies to do exactly the same thing.