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U2's (World) Cup Runneth Over for ESPN

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NEW YORK Wieden + Kennedy here has produced a series of spots for ESPN's World Cup soccer coverage using voiceovers from each of the four members of Irish rock band U2.

The cable sports network and ABC Sports, both owned by Walt Disney, will broadcast English-language FIFA World Cup games from Germany from June 9 through July 9.

Music from U2 is also used in the campaign, which carries the theme, "One game changes everything."

The first spot is voiced by lead singer Bono and broke last week on ESPN properties. This execution and the other spots will also be in rotation off-channel.

"It's a simple thing. Just a ball and a goal," Bono says in the spot as U2's "City of Blinding Lights" plays throughout. "That simple thing ... closes the schools, closes the shops, closes a city and stops a war."

Each montage-style spot shows people throughout the world playing soccer, whether on a professional ball field or a dirt lot.

"Beautiful Day" plays throughout the "Sick Days" spot, in which guitarist The Edge notes that every four years during the month of June (when the World Cup is played), "Sick days increase 300 percent. And yet not one employee is fired. Not one doctor's note is required. Not one important meeting is ruined. Because the bosses are out sick too."

For "Tartan Army," bassist Adam Clayton tells how despite Scotland's failure to qualify for World Cup competition again this time around, "You can bet your life the Tartan Army will be there. Cheering for Scotland anyway." U2's "I Will Follow" is used in the spot.

Director Christian Loubek filmed the commercials in Scotland and South Africa and is shooting an additional spot featuring the U.S. national team in North Carolina this month. That spot, titled "USA," will be voiced by U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr., and may include the song "Pride (In the Name of Love)."

ESPN's senior vice president of marketing Katie Lacey said in a statement, "Our goal with this campaign is to make World Cup soccer meaningful and relevant to American sports fans. We show the passion that fans around the world have through compelling stories that are set to the music of U2 and narrated by the band members themselves."