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Licensing International UK Rising Star 2023 Nominees: Donovan de Klerk finds out more about this year’s UK Rising Star nominees. Today, Exquisite Gaming’s global licensing manager, Donovan de Klerk.

Donovan de Klerk, global licensing manager, Exquisite Gaming


My route into licensing went something like this…

As with a lot of people in the industry, I never went out seeking licensing and was just immensely lucky to find my way onto a placement year at Disney within the EMEA Home team. It was a fast-paced year of learning and inevitably the hook into the industry. A finished degree and a few other small roles outside of licensing later, an exciting opportunity opened up at EXG and I can’t picture another career path.

How long in the industry?

3 years.

When I was growing up, I had no idea that ‘licensing’ was an industry, so I wanted to be…

A professional rugby player. However, a fourth visit to an operating table for sports injuries suggested I needed to find an alternative.

Biggest inspiration in the licensing industry?

There are so many brands that constantly innovate and disrupt, so it’s near impossible to single any out. As much as there is to take inspiration from different brands at different pockets in time, I believe it’s equally important to have successful individuals in the industry who you look up to, and for me that’s Suzy Macleod. Suzy was the Disney Home team’s director while I was there and has had a huge impact on my career and development. She’s also a fantastic leader as well as mentor, qualities which I aspire to develop as my career progresses.

Best thing about your current role?

I love being able to have commercial conversations with licensors, but my favourite part is the magic our talented team creates once contracts are active. EXG is a small team of passionate fans, and there’s a collaborative effort to work with all these amazing brands to bring something to life which is authentic and fun. A good example was being able to engage with Star Wars Fans at Star Wars Celebration in April, where the team went out (in full cosplay, obviously) to drive awareness to our new Darth Vader, even giving some of the new product away. Several recipients were delighted to the point of tears! Seeing consumers interact like that is something I’ll never forget, even if my view was obscured by a Chewbacca mask.

What are you most proud of within your licensing career to date?

I think the past year in particular has been really exciting from a licence acquisition and enhancement perspective, so knowing our team will be able to bring the new IP to life is a highlight.

Licensed character you can most identify with (and why)?

Captain America. The character’s most endearing qualities are his strong moral code, loyalty and dependability, alongside a certain level of tenacity in his ‘whatever it takes’ attitude. Would love to master that shield throwing technique for my dog’s frisbee as well…

What were your first thoughts when you were revealed as a nominee for the UK Rising Star Award?

The list of nominees is exceptional so in a bit of disbelief to see my name among all theirs!

The Licensing Awards 2023 takes place on Tuesday 12 September at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.

Tickets and tables can be reserved quickly and securely online by visiting or by contacting Clare Hollick at Create Events: or +44 (0)1183 340085.

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