S.T.A.'s tequila toast improper: social worker

Samoa Tourism Authority’s latest advert featuring Seiuli Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s new brand of tequila has a social worker on the frontlines of alcohol-related violence raising her eyebrows.

The video promotional video in question is short and features shots taken from some of Samoa’s prettiest places. But also highlighted is Seiuli's latest business venture: Teremana Tequila.

“Talofa Seiuli,” a man wearing a sei and ulafala says in the opening few seconds. 

“We’ve been enjoying your Teremana tequila, and we’d love to share a glass with you soon.” 

It’s the latest in a series of creative efforts by the S.T.A. to keep Samoa at the forefront of potential travelers' minds for when the pandemic dies down and international travel opens up.

As well as the quirky plea to Seiuli to visit his homeland and share a shot of tequila, the S.T.A. has engaged social media content creators to travel the islands generating catchy clips and photographs to showcase Samoa.

But the inclusion of alcohol in an official Government promotion has the manager of the Teen Challenge Programme, Leautolo Mabel Toilolo, concerned about the impact of alcohol advertising on young people.

“I think Samoa’s tourism industry needs to look at the effect of alcohol in the country before they launch these ads,” she told the Samoa Observer.

“Using it as part of an advertisement to draw tourists in, […] we have to look at the effect locally.”

Of the young people referred to their alcohol abuse rehabilitation programme through the court system, the majority are aged 12 to 25, Leautolo said. Of those, most face a judge because they got into trouble after a night on hard liquor.

During their rehabilitation, Leautolo and her colleagues learn just how little they understand about the strength of the alcohol they are drinking and the consequences of consuming too much. 

“It’s the alcohol percentage content within the spirit. Our people are not aware and they don’t understand. It’s an issue here, when we talk to the boys and we lay out all the alcohol content within a drink, they are all surprised.

“It’s an awareness that has been lacking, either from the companies or maybe the churches or village Fono should address the content of the drinks.

“Only two or five per cent of our referrals [involve] beer. Majority is the spirits.”

S.T.A. Chief Executive Officer Faamatuainu Lenatai Suifua said Samoa needs to deploy a novel approach to bringing tourists back to Samoa when it becomes possible.

In a statement provided to the Samoa Observer, he said the ad tries to inspire travellers, and gain some attention from Instagram’s most-followed movie star too.

“While travel restrictions remain, consumers are looking forward to what’s next and there is an appetite for travel motivation and information about safe destinations for post-Covid now,” Faamatuainu said. 

“Through the creative 60-second social media video we hope to engage with proud Samoan-American Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who is Instagram’s most-followed movie star with more than 200 million followers.

“The inclusion of The Rock owned Teremana Tequila in our invitation was solely used as an authentic personal connection, not to promote alcohol consumption or the alcohol brand itself. 

“The content in the video has been designed to showcase some of our most iconic locations and is an invitation from The Rock’s Samoan aiga to visit Samoa when it’s safe to do so. In the content narrative, our people share a local’s guide to some of the destination’s best offerings for The Rock and everyday travellers across the world.

“It’s been challenging for our small island nation, as it has been for all destinations that rely on international tourism, but we remain committed to ensuring the safety of our people as we eagerly await the moment we reopen to international travellers and welcome visitors from all corners of the world to our beautiful shores once again.”

While Teremana might be a little pricier than the usual drop of cheap spirits, Leautolo said it is only a matter of time before the tequila shows up on court referral sheets.

“It’s a newly advertised product. Just give it some time and we’ll see if that tequila is on our court list as well.

“Although the majority fall to the cheap prices, the money will always be the factor but there are some who can afford the tequila. So I won’t be surprised if by the end of the year we’ll have people come through the programme with this product as well.”

She said more and more, young people are drinking in large groups, sharing big bottle of spirits between three or four people and imbibing to the point of blacking out and not recognising family members.

“With these easily accessible strong drinks, it has caused the young people to be totally blacked out because of the percentage of alcohol.

“The young men don’t have an idea that the person coming to them is their parent. The young guys will pick up a stone, or get into a fistfight,” she said.

The majority of the victims in these situations are immediate family members, especially parents. 

Teen Challenge was established in 2017, but it was not until 2019 to now that the programme is dealing with these types of situations, Leautolo said. 

“Most of the guys that do the drinking, it’s a big bottle shared between three or four or five people. That’s why they get in trouble. 

“If they make noise and somebody comes to quiet them down, usually it’s a dad or a brother, these guys often say we had no idea that was our dad or our mum.”

Leautolo said there is a need for more work on alcohol education like how to drink safely and understanding what alcohol content means for consumers. 

Teremana Tequila has been approached for comment. 

The brand officially launched in March 2020 but its promotion was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Seiuli has recently undergone an extensive publicity campaign for the brand, which has been described as one of the most successful alcohol launches.

Read the full statement from the Samoa Tourism Authority below:

As part of ongoing efforts to promote our Beautiful Samoa and engage, especially with the international market where research suggests that people are thinking about travel, we recognised the need for a novel approach to inspire travellers and satisfy new expectations brought to the fore by the Pandemic. While travel restrictions remain, consumers are looking forward to what’s next and there is an appetite for travel motivation and information about safe destinations for post-Covid now.

Through the creative 60-second social media video we hope to engage with proud Samoan-American Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who is Instagram’s most followed movie star with more than 200 million followers.

The inclusion of The Rock owned-Teremana Tequila in our invitation was solely used as an authentic personal connection, not to promote alcohol consumption or the alcohol brand itself. The content in the video has been designed to showcase some of our most iconic locations and is an invitation from The Rock’s Samoan aiga to visit Samoa when it’s safe to do so. In the content narrative, our people share a local’s guide to some of the destination’s best offerings for The Rock and everyday travellers across the world.

Samoa Tourism Authority C.E.O. Fa’amatuainu Lenatai Suifua said the light-hearted video was created to capture The Rock’s attention and get him excited about returning home, while shining a light on the warm energy of our people and Samoa’s unrivalled natural beauty.

“It’s been challenging for our small island nation, as it has been for all destinations that rely on international tourism, but we remain committed to ensuring the safety of our people as we eagerly await the moment we reopen to international travellers and welcome visitors from all corners of the world to our beautiful shores once again.”

Bg pattern light

UPGRADE TO PREMIUM

Subscribe to Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy access to over a thousand articles per month, on any device as well as feature-length investigative articles.

Ready to signup?