U2, World Cup United Thanks

t’s not about politics,
Or religion,
Or the economy,
It’s not about borders,
Mineral rights,
Human rights,
Or animal rights,

When Nicholas Sonderup (right), a 34 year-old copywriter at the advertising firm of Wieden-Kennedy, turned in his script for the FIFA ad entitled “United”, he was understandably anxious. And not just because he had spent eight months working on the campaign for ESPN’s five FIFA ads. Sonderup’s avocation, you see, is writing music and the man whose approval his lyrics needed was none other than the lead singer and lyricist of the biggest band on the planet.

“After Bono read the script,” recalls Sonderup, “from what we heard, he said, ‘Wow, I feel like I could have written it.’”

It’s not about global warming,
Global pandemics,
NATO or Kyoto,

Sitting in a Manhattan office and clad in a U.S.A. soccer jersey, Sonderup is justifiably thrilled that so many people who have seen the minute-long ad, in which Bono reads his script while the opening chords of U2’s “Magnificent” linger in the recesses, assume that the globally-conscious Irish rock god himself wrote it.

“I remember saying in the edit room, ‘People are going to think Bono wrote those words,’” says Sonderup, who played Division I soccer at Winthrop University.

It’s not about elections,
He said she said,
My land your land,
No man’s land,

The images, many of them shot on location in South Africa and Buenos Aires and the rest culled from file footage, convey a global awareness that would look right at home in any one of a dozen U2 videos. The script, a series of nouns and terms with little else in the way of diction, sounds as if it was written in the same vein as the band’s “Elevation” or “Beautiful Day”.

It’s not about the stock market,
Black market,
Orange alerts,
Green homes,
Fear or loathing,

“We went through several iterations of the script,” says Sonderup. “We kept coming back to the idea that there are very few things in the world that unite the world.”

Hence, the lyrics themselves are almost a global laundry list of factions and divisiveness, which plays wonderfully into the contrast provided by the World Cup: the idea that for one month every four years the globe’s most widely played sport overcomes all of these competing values that lead us apart. For one month we are, as Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl wrote last month in a clever pun to kick off his own World Cup story, “Man United.”

Originally, the script had almost double the verbiage and Sonderup confesses that when he turned it in to his creative director, he was thinking “I really hope this doesn’t change much.” It was shortened, and a word or two was altered, but the lyrics are mostly true to his original copy. And while Wieden-Kennedy knew that U2 was aboard for this ad campaign, Sonderup’s supervisors, having read his script, were unanimous that for this particular spot they just had to have Bono’s vocals.

“At the time we didn’t know what U2 song we were going to go with,” says Sonderup. “We just kept saying, ‘We have got to get Bono to read this one.’”

It’s not about communism,
Or capitalism,
War or peace,
Love or hate,

Alas for the soccer-crazed Sonderup, he will not be attending the World Cup nor did he get to meet the voiceover artist who read his lyrics with such unabashed conviction. Too, he understands that advertising copywriters are seldom if ever recognized on the street (you may have stood in line at Wendy’s behind the guy who penned “Where’s the beef?” for all you know).

Still, he has the peace of mind, as an aspiring musician, that one of the world’s most successful rock stars is a wee bit envious of the lyrics that he provided him. Put another way, Sonderup has writtein one of the most compelling U2 tunes of the past decade. You can close your eyes and imagine Bono opening “Magnificent” live by voicing these very words as The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen provide the backing instrumentals.

This is about the one month,
Every four years,
Where we all agree on one thing,
32 nations,
One world watching,
2010 FIFA World Cup

“What makes the ad good is that it’s very simple,” says Sonderup.

Just like soccer.