Saint Lucia has for a long time been ranked as a country with one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption per capita. But the island has also been recognized for producing a plethora of fine rums and award-winning alcoholic beverages. The centripetal force for arguably the best-attended and longest event of the year—Saint Lucia Carnival—is scores of nights filled with alcohol-influenced partygoers.
While it is unlikely alcohol consumption in Saint Lucia is stoppable, major alcohol companies have chosen to promote healthier, safer drinking habits over the years. Messaging such as WLBL’s “Enjoy Heineken Responsibly” has been used in the past, but this time the island’s major alcohol producers have combined efforts to endorse responsible drinking. St Lucia Distillers Group of Companies and Windward and Leeward Brewery have collaborated with the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force and on Thursday March 14, 2019 they launched the iPledge to Drink Right campaign. Their slogan:
‘Right Age. Right Amount. Right Way.’
Said Margaret Monplaisir, SLD’s managing director: “We cannot ignore the negative impact on our societies caused by excessive consumption. A thriving, healthy Saint Lucia is essential to our survival as a company. Recent statistics painted an alarming picture of many Caribbean islands on the consumption of alcohol so we think the time is right to launch this campaign. We prefer to have customers who consume our products in moderation rather than people who binge and become sick or addicted and have to stay away from our drinks for the rest of their lives or even worse—have their lives cut short due to illness or accidents.”
Through marketing strategies, branded material and continuous messaging, the mandate of the iPledge to Drink Right campaign will be to “support responsible consumption of alcoholic drinks and strongly condemn alcohol abuse.” However, although the campaign seeks to encourage healthy drinking habits, it has no control over those who sell alcohol to minors or drive while under the influence.
“Whatever’s being proposed, we have pledged our support for it,” said Milton Desir, acting police commissioner. “With our traffic department in conjunction with the ministry of transport, we would be promoting road safety. One of the aspects of road safety is responsible drinking.”
While he did not identify any new measures to be undertaken by the police, he stressed the need to respect Saint Lucian laws. About under-age drinking he said, “In terms of ID, the entities have to be responsible, especially the clubs and so on, to ensure that persons who enter are of legal age. No one in the club should be under 18.”
He added: “In most instances, parties for example, we are not present. These sessions are in private and even at a disco or a nightclub. There we encourage organisers, producers, to just stick to selling drinks to persons of a particular age. I would implore persons that, even if you’re not providing it, at least say something to the police.”
Still, the campaign is contradictory to social norms of partying, excessive drinking and 24 hour kabawé culture. The irony is that too many Saint Lucians enjoy being drunk, taking pride in the quantity of liquor they can consume.
Fayola Ferdinand, corporate communications manager for WLBL: “We live in a more social and digital world, so we definitely have social media and digital media as part of the campaign. We did collaborate at carnival time
and used a lot of social media cut-outs, not to say the latest and greatest things within that last year. We’re going forward with that this year as well.”
An important aspect of the iPledge To Drink Right campaign are the “influencers”. Daren Sammy, YouTuber and biker Daran Rosemond, comedian Kiedel Sonny, and former National Carnival Queen Tyler Theophane were handpicked with respective fans in mind.
Sergin John Baptiste, marketing manager for SLD: “At its events WLBL has been asking that water breaks be included and that’s going to continue. We are asking that our ads and messaging also be included in the events we sponsor.”
John Baptiste told this reporter that this initiative began partly because of general research in the Caribbean. She said: “We’re part of the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers’ Association, which is a wider body, and for the past eighteen months there has been discussion of this research, seeing the effects of alcohol and what we as manufacturers can do to change the society’s attitude in relation to alcohol consumption. We wanted to collaborate with WLBL because we understand what is happening in the wider society.”